Want your toddler to cultivate a good vocabulary? Talk to him or her often and in great detail. A new study suggests that the more an adult talks to a toddler, the better language skills the child will develop
The study included 29 children, 19 months old, from low-income Hispanic families. Each child was fitted with a small audio recorder that captured all the sounds he or she heard during the day in their homes.
The recordings were analyzed to distinguish between adult speech directed at the toddlers and speech they only overheard, such as when a parent or other caregiver was on the phone or talking with another adult.
The researchers found a wide spectrum of differences in the families. Some parents engaged their tot in conversation on a regular basis and some barely spoke to their little one. One child heard more than 12,000 words of child-directed speech in a day, while another heard only 670, according to the study released online recently in the journal Psychological Science.
"That's just 67 words per hour, less speech than you'd hear in a 30-second commercial," study co-author Anne Fernald, a psychology professor at Stanford University, said in a news release from the Association for Psychological Science.
The scientists followed up five months later with the children and tested their language skills. At age 24 months, those who had experienced more child-directed speech had larger vocabularies than those who heard less child-directed speech.
Experts say reading to your child is a wonderful way to help your child learn language skills. While reading, include extra information. An example might be: The bird flew over the tree - The bird was a little brown bird, like the birds in our yard. What sound does a bird make? Cheep, cheep! Now, you say it. Cheep, cheep.
Developing good language skills early will help your toddler express what he or she wants better and may help lessen some of the frustration toddlers often experience.