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Building your baby’s brain - one word at a time

If you want to set your baby up to have strong language and conversational skills, you only need to do this one activity: talk. And if you do it in that sing-song way parents do (called parentese), it's even better!

Studies have shown a striking difference in vocabulary and language processing skills in toddlers as young as 18 months when they have been exposed to frequent talking from those who haven't. That's significant since a lot of new parents can find it difficult to talk to their newborns, but those early months are crucial. According to a new study conducted by Stanford psychologists, our brains can process language before learning to speak. 

If you struggle to have a one-sided conversation, just remember that your baby will still get a lot of information from your tone, rhythm and volume at which you communicate. So whether you take them on a tour of the house, sing a song or read to them, they will reap the benefits. 

And it’s easier than you think. Parents adopt simple grammar and words, and exaggerated sounds, almost without thinking about it. This baby talk, or parentese, is adopted by parents around the world, but it shares some common characteristics:

  • High pitched sounds - “Who’s the cute baby?”
  • Repetition - “Can you seedaddy?Daddy is over there!Daddy is making dinner”
  • Elongated vowels - “Did you have a looooong nap? Oo, look at that biiiiig streeeetch!”
  • Sing-song voice
  • Facial expressions - most babies are attracted to bright lips and watching your eyebrows move as you talk
  • Simplicity (but not "goo-goo, gaga")
  • Short and slow

Once your baby is babbling, you can develop their language comprehension, conversational skills and expand their vocabulary by responding to what you think they are saying. If you pretend to understand what your baby is saying, they will learn that babbling gets a reaction which will encourage them to eventually use words to get what they want. 

Here’s a simple breakdown on how to make the most of a simple interaction. 

Yes! I cansee. It's aBIG dog! TheBIG dog is brown. Do you want to touch the dog? Let mommy help you use soft hands to touch the dog.

Conversations with your baby, although a little more one sided than adult chats, can be a lot of fun. So take some time today to describe the world around you - after all, your narration is your baby’s first introduction to all the amazing things they can see.

We highly recommend watching the Netflix show Babies Episode 4 of Series 1 in which experts explore how babies break down language before they know how to speak.

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