Parent talk essential to building babies' brains

Dad talking to baby to help build babies' brains

As a parent, it's important to recognize the impact that your words have on your child and take measures to ensure you're teaching the lessons you want your child to learn.

The way that parents talk to and around their children can have quite an impact on their emotional well-being as well as their behavior.

In the first three years of life, your baby’s brains triples in size. It also becomes much more complex — and this doesn’t just happen without some help.

Research shows that lots of talking with children in the first three years of life builds the brain architecture that will be needed later to support reading and thinking skills.

Parent talk, in fact, is the premise of Studer Community Institute’s Parent Outreach programs.

Weekly sessions with parents, grandparents and caregivers offer valuable lessons, tips and skills to improve and enhance parent conversations and relationships with their young children ages 0 to 3.

Through partnerships with Pace Center for Girls, Pensacola Area Housing Commission, St. Mark United Methodist Church, First Presbyterian Child Development Center, Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida, Oakwood Terrace and Pensacola Village apartments, SCI is spreading the word throughout the community that words matter.

As reported in the TWYB ( website, some families are more talkative than others.

“The parents, grandparents, and other caregivers talk with babies a lot, even before the baby can understand or answer — initiating facial expressions and sounds, giving a “play-by-play” when changing a diaper, telling stories, asking the baby questions, singing, talking about pictures in books, and telling the baby how wonderful he is she is.

“Other families don’t talk much with their babies. The parents may not understand how important it is to talk with very young children, or they may not have grown up with that experience, or they may have other things on their minds.

Research shows that children from talkative families may have heard 30 million more words directed to them by age 3 than children from less-talkative families.

And the same research study showed that more words the children had heard by age 3, the better they did on tests of cognitive development.

Baby talk can have serious benefits — including a boost in early language learning that becomes more apparent as babies age. points to a study done by scientists from the University of Washington and the University of Connecticut. They collected thousands of 30-second conversations between parents and their babies, fitting 26 kids with audio-recording vests that captured language and sound during a typical eight-hour day.

The scientists then used analysis software to quantify how much the parents used baby talk during more than 4,000 encounters.

This April 2014 Developmental Science study found that the more baby talk parents used, the more their youngsters began to babble. All that babbling produced some surprising results at older ages. When researchers checked in with the same babies at age two, they found that frequent baby talk had dramatically boosted vocabulary regardless of socioeconomic status.

Two-year-olds who had heard the most baby talk knew an average of 433 words, while those whose families had been the quietest knew an average of 169 words.

Similar research and results came from a Studer Community Institute partnership with the LENA Research Foundation to offer LENA Start to parents in Pensacola.

LENA Start is dedicated to increasing talk in the first three years of a child’s life when a child’s brain develops to 80 percent of its adult size. During this critical window, children from low-income families may hear as many as 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers.

SCI, along with the Early Learning Coalition of Escambia, last year recruited two groups of parents to participate in the 13-week parenting sessions that used the LENA Start.

Some results from SCI’s group at First Presbyterian Child Discovery Center.

  93 percent of the parents completed the program, (only 1 dropped out) 96 percent turned in valid recordings and they increased conversational turns by 53 percent over the 13-week period.

— Among all of our families, they began in the 64 percentile for words and the 66th percentile for conversational turns at beginning of the program. By the 13th week, they were in the 83rd percentile for words and the 75th percentile for turns.

— Among our families that were “low-talk families”, they started in the 26th percentile for words and the 51st for turns. They ended at 77th for words and 78 for turns.

— 91 percent of families changed their talk habits for the better. 58 percent increased reading; 83 percent increased their awareness of child development; 58 included more talk into their routines.

Words do matter and providing parents with tips and tools to increase the words they use with their children matters even more to us.

Parents have the power to literally change the course of their child’s life early by simply using the tool of conversation.

At SCI, we offer parents simple and easy steps to help their babies develop healthy, strong and powerful brains through power of words.

Simply talking to your baby early and often has the power to change your baby’s life and the future of her success in school and in life.



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