How do you speak to your toddler?

I was out in town the other day and a woman said “why bother speak to your child if she can’t fully speak back?” Her remark baffled me.

Emily’s 2 years old and although she’s not saying full sentences just yet, she’s a lot more confident speaking since she joined nursery and I will continue to talk to her like this, whether those judge or not. In fact, Sam and I have done so since Emily started saying anything.

Chatting away to your toddler is something we’ve done for a while. It’s more natural for us to speak to her like this than repeating silly noises back to her. It’s also really cute hearing her repeat some words we say – Emily says Gangrene instead of Ice Cream ūüôĄ.

Now science is confirming that speaking to your toddler this way could make your kid smarter. A new study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that kids of parents who had conversations with their little ones (rather than just talking at them) between 18 and 24 months of age had better language skills and a higher IQ when they reached primary school.

“It’s incredible that we are able to measure the relationship between the experiences of babies and their cognitive skills ten¬†years later,” said lead author¬†Dr. Jill¬†Gilkerson.¬†“It strongly supports what other research has shown: talk with babies may make a huge difference in their futures and there is a need to begin early, since parents’ talk habits in the 18-24-month window start forming from the moment the baby is born.”

For the first phase of the study, Dr Gilkerson and her team collected daily audio recordings from the families of 329 children aged between two and 36 months of age. Recordings spanned a six-month period and were later analysed for the total number of adult words kids were exposed to, how much children spoke, and how many turn-taking interactions they had during the day. In phase two, the children, who were now school-aged, completed follow-up language and IQ tests.

Results showed that the number of turn-taking conversations occurring in the narrow window between 18 and 24 months was linked to higher IQ, verbal comprehension, and expressive and receptive language skills when kids were aged nine to 13 years old. And while adult word count also had an impact, it was those to-and-forth conversations with little ones that really mattered.

Science or no science though, I think it’s incredibly important to Emily’s learning and confidence that we speak to her properly to encourage her in her development and growth.

What do you think parents? I’d love to hear your views….

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