Have you ever considered the importance of really talking to your child? Most parents would be surprised how integral everyday talking is to your child’s vocabulary. In fact the more you talk to your child, from birth to the age of 3, the better their vocabulary.

The book Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children is a particular study that found that success in school can be linked to the amount of talk between a child and a caregiver. The study looked at what happened in a range of households with children aged from 7-9 months up to the age of 3.

They found that children raised in different environments were, by the age of three, displaying different talk and vocabulary growth. These trends already indicated that a gap would form in the years to come. This was validated in grade 3 testing of the children.

The study found that in welfare families, the number of words heard by children averaged 616 per hour. This was significantly lower than the 2,153 words per hour heard by children from professional families. This means that by the age of 4, a child from a professional family would have heard 45 million words as compared to a child from a welfare family of only 13 million words. That’s a difference of over 30 million words.

The implications of this research are being tested in a number of programs (see this New York Times article for more details)

You can find a summary of the study here.

Talking Tips for Parents

To increase the amount of words your child is exposed to each day, try these tips:

  • Reading Books – Each book you read exposes your child to new vocabulary. Picture books can be great talking points too. As you read each story, talk about the pictures and what is happening in the illustrations. Create a ritual around reading time. Try to read books at the same place at the same time of day. For example, before bedtime or after a bath are good times to wind-down? at the end of the day.
  • Singing Songs – If you enjoy singing along with your kids to children’s songs, this is an easy way to subject your child to more words. Otherwise, you could introduce your child to other types of music (appropriate for your child’s age of course). Sing along in the car, during bath time, while tidying, going for a walk – any opportunity will do!
  • Talking through chores – Children love to imitate the actions of their parents. Have your child sit nearby as you cook, clean or iron. Explain to your child what you are doing and even have your child assist with the work or pretend to do the same. Cooking is a great activity to explain to your child. There’s so much to explain about the task, plus your child is sure to enjoy being a taste tester.
  • Storytelling – create your own stories with your child – based on real people or imaginary, or recite popular tales (maybe add your own personal touch!).
  • Talk about your day – make it a ritual to talk to your child about the day you both have had. Describe what happened, who you saw and the things that happened to you or your child. You can talk about what you will do tomorrow and the things that may happen. Sometimes the really good days can turn into stories that you tell over and over again.

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