Especially for Parents: Let’s Talk!

Child development research shows that talking to infants and young children on a very frequent basis provides a myriad of cognitive and social/emotional benefits. The number of words a child is exposed to and the regularity of conversation is a predictor of school readiness. While verbal interactions help children understand and develop speech sounds and build vocabulary, nonverbal cues during conversations—even with infants—are extremely important too.

A recent article in Parenting Science states that nonverbal cues “help children forge even more fundamental skills: How to tune into another person. How to understand his or her intentions. How to empathize and predict what someone is likely to do next.”

The article describes studies on how eye contact and nonverbal connection during conversation lead babies and their caregivers to mirror one another’s brain waves, which, in other experiments, is shown to produce better comprehension.

Image from Leong lab by Cambridge University

This resonates with me as I think about my interactions with our 3- and 6-year-old. From an emotional standpoint, our communication is always more effective when I get down to their levels, look them in the eyes, nod, and generally show them that I am listening.

In addition, when I am engaged in a nonverbal way versus being distracted by a thought or task, I am more likely to extend a conversation based on their interests, ask questions, and explore an idea or issue further, thus helping them learn new vocabulary and/or thought processes.

As children grow, it is important that we don’t limit ourselves to simple sentences. According to Professor Erika Hoff of Florida Atlantic University “…parents should not restrict their conversations to simplistic baby talk. Rich and complex language, with adjectives and subordinate clauses, helped them to learn the complex structure of language…Children cannot learn what they don’t hear.”

The benefits of talking to our children on a frequent basis are immense, and both the content of those conversations as well as the nonverbal cues attached to them make a difference. For more on this topic, visit the sources used for this article:

https://www.parentingscience.com/talking-to-babies.html

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/feb/14/talking-to-babies-brain-power-language

Angie Williams
EFC Finance and Marketing Director

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