“Time for milk! Aren’t you hungry?” They may not be the most fascinating words you’ve ever uttered, but the everyday things you say to your infant can offer big-time benefits.
Talking builds your bond. “When new moms ask, ‘Why should I talk to my child when she can’t understand?’ I explain that even young babies can understand eye contact, tone of voice, and their importance to mom,” says Robin Blitz-Wetterland, M.D., a developmental pediatrician at Phoenix Children’s Hospital in Arizona. Dominick Mondi, a father of one in Marlton, New Jersey, has been chatting with his son literally since he was born. “I was so nervous in the delivery room that I started talking to Nicholas because I didn’t know what else to do! I told him what an awesome mom he has.” Now 12 months old, Nicholas and his dad chat regularly. “It’s made us really close,” says Mondi. “When I say something to him, he answers with his own sounds. It’s a great feeling.”
Parent talk makes kids good talkers. “Speaking to infants increases their vocabulary down the road, as well as their overall language abilities,” says Dr. Blitz-Wetterland. Research has found that the more parents talk to a child during his first three years of life, the more expansive the child’s vocabulary is by age 3. In other words, make small talk!
It doesn’t matter what you chat about. Some moms like to narrate what they’re doing, whether it’s a diaper change or a stroll through Target. (Of course, if you feel like musing over the latest celeb scandal, go right ahead.) Keep using a sing-songy voice: That slower, more exaggerated way of speaking is more likely to attract your baby’s attention and, according to one study, help him more quickly identify words. One more thing: Nix the “goo-goo-gah-gahs” and stick with real words. As Dr. Blitz-Wetterland says, “Exposing a child to actual vocabulary is what best builds his.”
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