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The “Gift of Gab”

Did you know one of the most important gifts you can give your child is WORDS?

If you said yes, then you are likely in a minority of parents who understand the educational power packed into language and communication skills.

The fact is that a child’s vocabulary ability upon entering school is a prime predictor for school success or failure.

Without a solid language base a child is likely to have difficulty learning in any academic subject. Even the language of a math lesson is dependent on understanding concepts of quantity (more, less, few, some etc) and the ability to follow directions.

We don’t call those math challenges “Word PROBLEMS” for nothing!

It’s not only about academic success either, what about the language that’s involved in social skills, making and maintaining friendships, play skills, imagination, problem solving, abstract thinking, humor, sarcasm and just having a good conversation with family or friends.

Classrooms might claim to be “multi-sensory” experiences but overall they are still primarily AUDITORY LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS which depend on understanding spoken language.

Frequent middle ear infections (causing inconsistent sound input to the brain) when a child is in the early part of learning to process and store sounds can cause academic problems down the road.

A child starting school with weaker understanding needs to focus more on just hearing and attending to the words.  A child who can understand the teacher with ease can use their brainpower to think about the information being taught rather than on figuring out the words. 

The easier the child can understand the language the more brain power they have to THINK about the concepts which helps to store it into memory better. 

Basically, babies begin their journey by first “learning to listen” and then they use that listening to learn language.  By the age of 3 or 4 years they are already using language to learn information and general knowledge.

Parents typically do encourage and wait expectantly for the FIRST handful of words to emerge.  However, far fewer parents continue to give conscious thought to how they may enhance their baby’s language learning potential unless an actual delay or disorder is diagnosed. 

Parents can have positive (or negative) influence on their babies overall rate and quality of communication development. 

Neurologists have determined that the neuro-plasticity of the brain, and the greatest language learning potential is in the first 3 1/2 years of life.  Taking a spectator approach to language development in those early years is not the most efficient way to build a strong foundation for a baby’s education. 

Playful interaction is critical to optimize language and there is NO APP FOR THAT!

Don’t panic!  A few simple strategies can add language value to everyday interactions with your baby:

  • First, share books often during the day. 
  • Make books playful, cuddly, interesting and most important accessible throughout your home.  Babies don’t start with attention to books.  They learn to attend to books through positive experiences over time.
  • Have conversations with your baby and leave space for him/her to respond even if s/he is not yet capable.  Babies need conversational turns to practice their interactions. 
  • Use grammatically accurate sentences when you talk.
  • Give simple explanations and narrate your actions together even if your baby can not yet understand.
  • Make time EVERYDAY for talking together with your full undivided attention.  You’ll make some amazing discoveries along the way as your baby grows up!
  • Sing songs often during the day. If doesn’t matter if you can carry a tune or even if you know the words….make up words to go along with your activity.  

Yes one of the most important gifts you can give your child is words!  So whether you are Babbling with Babies TM or Chatting with Children TM give “The Gift of Gab” today. 

Pamela Talbot

Pamela is an ASHA certified Speech-Language Pathologist dually certified as a teacher of the hearing impaired. She is a Listening and Spoken Language LSLS-AVT. Pamela has extensive experience training parents and professionals at the international level.