Don’t dumb down language when talking to babies, study suggests

Shereen Dindar
Contributing Writer
Shine On
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New research from the American Association for the Advancement of Science provides tips on how parents can increase their child's language capacity by the time they are 18 months.

Stanford University psychology professor Anne Fernald and her colleagues have conducted a series of experiments on infant language development and their conclusions have lead them to some key suggestions for parents.

According to their research, children from low-income families are six months behind more affluent children in their language skills by the time they're 18 months old. By the time they're five years old, children from low-income families can be as much as two years behind other children.

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They claim this is because lower-income parents are less likely to introduce their children to a varied vocabulary -- more affluent children hear millions more words than their poor counterparts by the time they start school.

To bridge that gap, the researchers compiled several key points of research that can help parents expand their children's vocabulary before they even learn to talk. Here are some of their findings, as cited by the Associated Press.

1) Don't dumb down your language when talking to infants. Long sentences with rich varied language and excellent grammar will train your baby's brain to learn faster through context.

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2) Start talking to your infant from day one. "Children can hear lots of talk that goes over their head in terms of the meaning, and they still benefit from it," says psychology professor Erika Hoff from Florida Atlantic University.

3) Make connections and provide context for the objects you refer to. The Associated Press suggests this example: "Instead of just saying, 'Here's an orange,' it would be better to say: 'Let's put the orange in this bowl with the banana and the apple and the grapes.'"

4) Turn off the television and talk directly to your baby. "Television does not help the brain learn language," says pediatrician Kimberly Noble from the Columbia University Medical Center. Babies and toddlers require speech to be directed at them, not overheard, in order to learn.

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5) Talk to your baby while doing everyday activities. For example, instead of tuning out by listening to music while making dinner, talk to your baby about what you are making.