Promising news about toddler speech capabilities was published in the journal Pediatrics this month. Chatty tots whose parents engaged in regular conversation developed into adolescents with high-flying cognitive abilities.
The purpose of the study was to predict whether early exposure to words increased a child’s vocabulary, IQ, and mental development. Over 300 children between the ages of 2 months and 3 years old were recruited for the first part of the study, which recorded 12 hours’ worth of conversations with their parents per day.
These interactions were logged over a span of six months, with special attention being paid to how often a child responded and whether it was in a back-and-forth fashion. Called a conversation turn-count, the exchanges were analyzed and measured by speech pathologists.
Out of the original 350 or so participants, only 146 families participated in the follow-up phase of study ten years later. All the children who were reevaluated were ages 9 to 14.
What researchers found was that babies who began the study in the 18 to 24 months age group had the strongest outcomes in terms of language and comprehension skills.
That period is what pediatricians deem a language burst – or language explosion – and it’s the age where children absorb words like sponges. Along with that, they learn a flurry of new words that they try to pronounce and form into sentences.
For the kids in this study who were in environments where vocabulary-rich interactions occurred (through reading, conversations, etc.), it was determined that their IQs benefited from the boost. How much?
Those who talked back-and-forth scored 14 to 27% higher on tests taken during their follow-up evaluations. Because the study’s participants were limited to the Denver area, researchers shared that these results only provide a snapshot and are neither broad enough nor diverse enough to give accurate predictions.
Other factors such as the family structure, socioeconomic background, or educational level of the parents were not taken into account but could influence predicted outcomes for children.
But what this study does demonstrate is that babies and toddlers who are exposed to daily convos with mom or dad fared better in literacy, verbal communication, and language skills in school. Those half-silly, half-serious chats you have with your baby work!
Pediatricians recommend that parents help to expand their littles ones’ vocab by talking and reading to them using normal words and not necessarily baby talk. Not only do these interactions help them cognitively, but also emotionally and socially.
Neurodevelopment specialists also suggest that parents should reach for age-appropriate words that will be easy for kids to grasp while also building their repertoire. With 18 to 24 months old being the magical period for language growth, it gives you another reason to be excited for the “terrible twos”.
Don’t stop talking or listening to your little one when they’re trying to string their two-word and three-word sentences together and you could have a potential genius on your hands.
Do or did you draw your babies into lively conversations? How did they pick up on words as they grew? What are your thoughts on this study?