How to Boost Young Children’s Language Development
Is your toddler learning and speaking common words on time for his/her age group?
Language learning is a matter of concern for some parents who worry about their toddler’s timely language development. We’ve known for some time that frequent verbal engagement with babies can boost vocabulary and later, reading comprehension.
What else can parents of young children do?
Apparently, say researchers at the University of Washington, even moms and dads who aren’t fixated on their baby’s language skills may be improving their child’s language. A research study from the university examined the distinctive form of sing-song speech (higher pitch, slower tempo and exaggerated intonation) often directed at babies, finding that it improved communication between parents and their children and just as importantly, boosted language development.
University of Washington researchers assigned 71 families with typically-developing six month old babies to one of two conditions. Half the parents were given feedback on their use of “baby talk” or parentese language and speaking style including how to use it to engage children. They were also played audio samples from recordings of their own interactions with their children to highlight particularly good uses of parentese. Important language milestones were also discussed. Families in the second group received no coaching.
Both sets of families provided recordings of themselves talking to and with their children at six, ten, fourteen and eighteen months of age. As expected, the families with parentese coaching made the biggest strides with their children, who showed a greater increase in vocalizations between six and eighteen months than the control group. They also had larger vocabularies overall at eighteen months than kids in the control group, suggesting that positive changes in the way parents communicate with their children are not temporary but durable and long-lasting.
So why is parentese such a successful mode of communication? Leanne O’Neil of INDY Neurofeedback weighs in. “A dramatic change in pitch has a lot to do with it, as young children’s brains are programmed to react to the exaggerated facial expressions that often accompany such speech. These exaggerations hold infants’ attention and allow their rapidly growing brains to take in more words and meanings than if they were distracted.”
“Brain development in young children is fascinating,” O’Neil continues. “Being aware of parentese and its multiple positive implications may be very useful indeed for families who are hoping to improve their children’s language development.”
Your questions about your child’s brain growth and development are always welcome at INDY Neurofeedback, where we carefully and respectfully work with a wide age range of children and their parents, every day.