From the moment they are born, babies are soaking up every sensory experience around them. While words usually don’t hit their tongues until around one year of age, new research indicates that babies are working on speech as early as seven months. It’s just all happening in their heads.
Similar to physical movement, speech requires the coordination of brain messages that not only pair sounds with meanings, but also signal mouth movements that will produce words. Forming sounds takes a lot of work for an infant but it’s made easier by the inner dialogue that’s been taking place for months before the words come out.
Amazingly, researchers discovered that infants as young as six months old can understand words, but by seven months, areas of the brain that correspond to motor planning light up when they hear sounds. Researchers suspect that this area of the brain is involved in identifying their native language. When a baby does spit out her exciting first word, it is usually one she has heard most often. Her brain has been working on forming the sounds for months and finally she has the coordination to verbalize it.
This research highlights the importance of talking to babies, even if they are no where near blurting their first words. Hearing speech is exercising their cognition, not only to discover the meanings of words, but also how they will eventually say them. Talking to your baby has many benefits:
Talking to your baby strengthens your bond. While she may not follow your every word, she will quickly learn your tone and cadence, which is comforting to your little one. Your words are powerful and are the foundation of a trusting relationship between you and your child. Plus, talking is fun and can certainly spur a smile if not a complete giggle fest.
If you feel silly talking to your baby, remember that it’s good for her health, just like giving her baths, taking her to the doctor and breastfeeding. And constant chatter is simpler than you may think. Try having a conversation with your little one’s baby talk. Repeat her words, complement them, encourage more and respond as if she’s said something that completely makes sense to you. This game of speech volley will teach your infant the dynamics of conversation.
Use every opportunity to repeat words and teach new words. Repetition is easy when you have a routine. Describe your actions when changing her diaper, snuggling up to breastfeed or driving to grandma’s house. Take time during bathes or meals to talk about body parts, foods, people in your lives, colors, shapes and more. Try to incorporate multiple senses as you use words to create a stronger association to meanings. Nursery rhymes or even rhymes you make up yourself are other repetitive ways to talk to your baby.
Reading to your baby is imperative. Picture books are ideal to connect sights with the sound of words. Research shows that low-income children who were not read to regularly in their early years of life are at a great disadvantage as they enter school. Reading not only increases vocabulary that may not be part of your daily routines, but also other communication skills and eventually your child’s own literacy. Plus reading is another bonding activity and instills a passion for books and lifelong learning.
The new philosophy is: baby talk equals brain talk. Take every opportunity to boost your baby’s brain by indulging in a little baby talk.