Babies are always excited and eager to learn about the world around them. Their journey of learning and exploring begins on day one, as soon as they begin to absorb the sights and sounds of the new world. As most of us are aware, early years are the most crucial years when the brain develops at a rapid pace. Researchers say that even newborn babies and infants can absorb huge amounts of data. Within a few days of birth, babies are able to differentiate familiar voices and touch. Their brain cells are receptive to a variety of stimuli, particularly language. It is therefore very important that parents should talk to their baby from day one.
According to a research study conducted by Prof Anne Fernald, a psychology professor from Stanford University, babies and toddlers showed striking differences in vocabulary and language processing skills, even as early as 18 months old. As per the study “Infants who heard more child-directed speech developed greater efficiency in language processing and learned new words more quickly”. Children, whose parents did not engage much with them during the early months, fared very poorly in language skills tests. Even at 24 months of age, these children were far behind their peers in vocabulary and language development. The research results indicate that “exposure to child-directed speech sharpens the infants’ language processing skills, with cascading benefits for vocabulary learning.”
Some parents may find it very awkward to have a regular conversation with a baby who can neither understand nor respond, but that fact is that babies can absorb information sooner than they think. Even if babies and infants cannot comprehend or understand big vocabulary, using them repetitively stimulates their brain cells and enables them to grasp these words more easily. Soon they learn to respond to the sounds with a leg or hand movement, and within a few months they make an effort imitate the sounds.
The more you talk, the smarter they become.
Having strong language skills from an early age builds the brain architecture and gives the child an edge over the peers. Parents should talk to their baby more often, not only to make the child smarter at school, but also to build essential social skills and self-esteem. Children, when exposed to rich varied language from parents, grandparents and caregivers, are better equipped to deal with a wide variety of challenges. They are more confident and open to communication. They are also able to communicate their physical and emotional needs with ease. Since they have the ability to express their aguish verbally when in pain, tired, sleepy, or hungry, they are less likely to throw temper tantrums.
So as parents, you just need to talk to your baby, as early as you can, and much as you can. It’s one of the simplest things to do. You don’t need expensive toys or gadgets. Simply by talking or reading to your baby, you can build a firm foundation for a lifelong of learning. It’s as basic as that!
Written by Dr. Arpitha Reddy.