Every parent has an arsenal of silly songs and rhymes that drive them crazy but bring joy to their little one. And, studies show, these may do more than make baby smile and giggle with glee. It turns out, what happens in your baby's brain when you talk, sing, and read is more beneficial than you might realize. To better understand the importance of exposing your baby to tons of words, Romper spoke with Kara Dukakis, director of Too Small To Fail, a joint public awareness and action initiative from the Clinton Foundation and The Opportunity Institute. Too Small To Fail promotes the importance of early brain and language development.
When it comes to talking, reading, and singing with your child, "quality and frequency are both important," said Dukakis, Senior Vice President for the Strong Families and Early Learning Program Area at The Opportunity Institute. You want to use every opportunity to teach your child words and add value to these interactions with eye contact and physical touch. These exchanges between you and your baby create the framework for school readiness as well as long term learning success. Whether you're running errands or changing diapers, narrating the world for your baby will help their brain make the these important connections and realizations. Here's what else goes on internally when you interact with your baby through speech, songs, and books:
1. They Prepare For Learning
To set your child up for a successful school career, you have to incorporate language use and exchanges throughout the day. As the website for Too Small To Fail's campaign Talking Is Teaching pointed out, "research shows that talking, reading and singing with your child every day from birth helps build their brains" and helps their language, math, reading and social skills for use in school and outside the classroom.
2. They Catalogue Information
Being new to the world, your baby is constantly being introduced to new sights, smells, sounds, and textures that stimulate her brain and help her to organize the world around her. Even though there are wonderful toys and shows that promote these skills, at the end of the day, a baby's brain is hardwired to receive information from other humans, according to Today's Parent.
The most effective means of input for your little one comes from what Too Small To Fail calls "trusted messengers." The campaign focuses on working with trusted messengers to reach parents directly, including pediatricians, faith leaders, early educators to reinforce the importance of talking, reading, and singing with your child.
3. Their Neural Pathways Are Formed
"The most dramatic period of brain development happens between age 0 to 5," Dukakis says. During this phase of growth, the brain is forming crucial connections called "neural pathways" at a rapid pace. According to Parenting magazine, language promotes the creation of neural pathways in babies, and the more pathways that can be developed, the more your child learns as time goes on.
4. Their Word Count Increases
The more language you use around your baby, the more words they will have exposure to — and hearing all those words pays off in the long term. As Talk With Your Baby explained, "children from talkative families may have heard 30 million more words directed to them by age 3 than children from less-talkative families." All these words directly connect to better scores on tests that measure cognitive development.
5. They Understand Math Concepts
Exposure to lots of language is crucial for reading readiness, but a strong foundation for math skills is set when using certain concepts in conversation with your little one. According to Talking Is Teaching, counting out loud and using math words with your young child boosts their math readiness by the time they reach elementary school.
6. They Create Strong Social-Emotional Skills
Managing emotions and navigating through life's ups and downs is easier when children have a strong foundation to build on. "Many researchers have found that loving, language-rich interactions between parents and children are incredibly important to a child's language confidence and social-emotional development," Dukakis says.
A study published in the journal Child Development found, there is a link between quality parent-child interactions, language skills, and strong social-emotional skills. This means all those exchanges between you and your baby bolster their success and happiness beyond school, and into their adult life.
7. They Develop Good Decision Making Skills
Absorbing numerous words at an early age may be the secret to raising good decision makers. According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, children with well developed social-emotional skills were less likely to engage in high-risk behaviors such as binge drinking as young adults. When children have this base of trust, it build their confidence to make smart choices.
8. They Boost Their Chances For Achievement
One way to comprehend the importance of developing early language skills is to consider the outcome when language has not been promoted in early childhood. "Simple actions like eye-to-eye contact, holding a baby's hand, responding to a baby's coos, and talking to them throughout the day are all ways that parents and caregivers can help their children grow up to be prepared for school success, and confident, loving adults down the road," Dukakis says.
Additionally, research shows that children with language delays and difficulties are more likely to experience poor academic achievement and referrals for psychiatric assessments in school, according to The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines.
9. Their Speech Skills Benefit
Hearing a child speak their first words is one of the most incredible experiences of your parenting career, but you pave the way to those first utterances through your interactions with your kid. A study published in the journal Mind, Brain, Education shows that a baby's brain has the ability to detect different patterns of speech as early as infancy. Giving your child as many words as possible will buoy their language skills before they even start talking.