Very small children are like sponges, absorbing their environments and soaking in everything around them.
Babies are often captivated by the sound of their parents' voices. Other times, the shiny thing on the ground seems more interesting. But whether your child is rapturously clinging to your every word, or messing about with their mashed veg, exposure to language is incredibly important to the development of small children. How much language, you might ask. Well, the research points to somewhere around 30 million words.
The world-famous study (maybe you've heard about it. Or not. Whatever. I'm about the explain it for you anyway.) found that some children heard 30 million fewer words than other children by their 4th birthdays. The children who heard more words were better prepared for school, and when followed to THIRD GRADE (!) they had bigger vocabularies, were stronger readers, and got higher test scores.
This research has been so impactful, governments ranging from the local to state level have designed programs to promote early exposure to varied language. But what to say to your little babe? Here are a few ideas, no doubt you already do some of these:
1. Talk about your day, what you're currently doing (preparing lunch, changing diapers, hopefully something fun too...)
2. Tune in to what your child is looking at "Ooo. You're looking at the squirrel outside the window" or "Hmm, that toy must be yummy, perhaps your teeth are coming in so it feels nice on your gums. Do you see the colors?"
3. Tell stories to your baby. Stories you know well (Harry Potter anyone?). You don't need to be reading out of a book to make up a story. It doesn't need to have a well-thought-out beginning, middle, and end. Have fun just being together and sharing a goofy story.
4. Eye contact is so important. Your baby learns best in relationship, in connection with you, their caregiver. So keep that eye contact going strong.
Remember your baby is listening. Our spongie babies listen and absorb anything, no filter. So you need to be their filter. If you know you're about to get into it with your spouse or anyone for that matter, try to limit your child's exposure to that interaction and those words. Also be kind to yourself. We can't control the world, and sometimes things happen. Being mindful and trying is enough.