While your infant will coo and cry throughout the day, she is absorbing every word you say and learning every minute she's awake. Talking with your infant is one of the most powerful ways to increase her intelligence during infancy and early childhood, according to Wanda Draper, Texas-based child development specialist and professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. Talking with your baby is also a powerful way to establish bonding during the first few months of her life.
Just as babies often smile when you smile and giggle when you giggle, language follows the same suit. As a parent, you are your baby’s best model for language, says Nicola Lathey, London-based speech and language pathologist. “The more you talk to infants, the sooner they will start to copy you and the sooner they will begin to talk,” she says. Babies who talk at earlier stages of development can communicate needs better to parents, ultimately reducing the need for fussy, crying spells.
The more you talk to your infant, the more he will value communication with others, says Deborah Gilboa, Pittsburgh-based family physician and author of “Get the Behavior You Want Without Being the Parent You Hate.” Verbal communication is one of the major ways people show love and support," she says. “It is a primary means of building our child’s connection to our family and development within himself.”
When your child is exposed to more words at an early age, she can begin to develop a stronger set of words to express herself. Children collect new words both receptively and expressively, like birds collect scraps to build their nests, says Gilboa. “Help your child build a strong, secure nest by giving her lots of language to practice understanding and speaking, even if you can’t yet understand her,” she says.
Any time adults speak to infants, it has an effect on their development in a positive manner, says John Kennedy, Illinois-based neuroplastician. An infant’s brain picks up far more than it can process and stores knowledge by physically altering the brain, he says. “Using adult words rather than baby talk trains the brain to recognize sounds which the baby can mimic and use to communicate,” says Kennedy. The tone, especially, communicates both negative and positive connotations the child can already recognize, he says, so avoid harsh tones when talking to your infant.