Speaking directly to our children has been supported  as a winning strategy for many years by educators and parents alike, and now we have the science to back those claims up.

After years of research and a lot of resources spent on investigating how language develops in children, recent results take significant steps towards explaining why children coming from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and less educated families exhibit delayed and underdeveloped speech. Child-directed speech, or lack thereof, seems to be the paramount reason why some children speak sooner and more complex than some others.

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Recently, Anne Fernald, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, conducted extensive research on language development in children. She mostly concentrated her work on language differences between children coming from rich and poor families. The results were staggering.

‘Fernald’s work identified one likely cause for this gap. Using special technology to make all-day recordings of low-SES Spanish-learning children in their home environments, Fernald and her colleagues found striking variability in how much parents talked to their children. Infants who heard more child-directed speech developed greater efficiency in language processing and learned new words more quickly.

The results indicate that exposure to child-directed speech — as opposed to overheard speech — sharpens infants’ language processing skills, with cascading benefits for vocabulary learning.’

[quote_box_center]‘Exposure to child-directed speech sharpens infants’ language processing skills and can predict future success’, so keep that talking going![/quote_box_center]

So children develop more advanced language skills when parents or other adults in charge of their care speak directly to them and engage in two-way conversation. But what about other sources of language input? Does reading to our children help, too, or does TV has any direct influences on the way their language processing skills evolve?

Dr. Frederick J. Zimmerman, associate professor in the Department of Health Services in the UCLA School of Public Health, investigated whether reading alone is enough input to help accelerate language development in children. He explained that although ‘pediatricians and others have encouraged parents to provide language input through reading, storytelling and simple narration of daily event, this form of input may not place enough emphasis on children’s role in language-based exchanges and the importance of getting children to speak as much as possible.’


While adult-child conversations have a much more remarkable impact on the way children develop and understand language than them being exposed to monologic reading alone, ‘TV viewing has no effect on language development, positive or negative.’

How do researchers access children’s language development , through? ‘The study of 275 families of children ages 0-4 was designed to test factors that contribute to language development of infants and toddlers. Participants’ exposure to adult speech, child speech and television was measured using a small digital language recorder or processor known as the LENA System. This innovative technology allowed researchers to hear what was truly going on in a child’s language environment, facilitating access to valuable new insights.’

Moreover, there is one more test that shows promising results in providing  accurate forecast when it comes to something as complex as language – the Language Use Inventory (LUI). According to recent findings, ‘the LUI can both identify kids who are struggling with language now and provide insight into their future facility with words. Early identification of language delays permits parents to seek help before problems set in, potentially resulting in a brighter future for those children whose language skills need a boost.’

So, parents nowadays need to understand the importance of talking to their children , starting in infancy. It is clearly shown that by the age of 2, children of the more engaged moms develop bigger vocabularies and process spoken language much more efficiently.


Moms, I know that engaging in a full on conversation with a toddler that gets bored every so often and doesn’t really pay attention is a difficult task.

Especially when those mere 24 hours are not even close to the amount we need to complete the crazy organizing and running around in and around the house. However, small children’s brains are indeed, like sponges: they absorb information very fast, and require much direct interaction to develop and expand properly.

Make sure that the time you do get to spend with your children is fully devoted to bonding activities, and to always grabbing the opportunity for some one-to-one ‘chatting’, no matter how small they are.

(Source: Science Daily)

Psychologist, world citizen, mother - Effie is one half of the alwaysladies.com founding pair. She can bring to life any party with either a smile, or a strong opinion. If like us you can't get enough of Effie, visit her blog at www.thethinkingmomblog.com

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