Research tells us that one of the very best things we can do to help build our babies' brains is to talk to them. All talking is not created equal though; and most parents who think they are talking to their babies probably aren't as much as they think. Think through these questions to get a clearer picture of how you talk to your baby. Then, use some of the examples to beef up your baby conversations. Both you and baby will love it and you will be helping build her brain in the process.
1. When do you talk to your baby?
When they stop and think about it, many parents report that they mainly talk to their babies at dinner time when the whole family is together. This is especially true for busy families where both parents work outside the home and their baby is in daycare for a big part of the day. We all need to take a closer look at this kind of talk because it often isn't talk directed at baby, but talk around the baby. Many parents realize that they are really talking to each other and getting caught up on the day. When they look closely, they realize that this isn't a time when they are directly talking to their baby in ways that help build his brain. This is easy to fix. Depending on baby's age, parents can describe the food both baby and the family are having. Something like this: "Penelope, tonight you are having chicken and noodles. It is warm and blended up smooth so you can eat it easily. Mommie and Daddy are having chicken stir fry which is chicken and vegetables. See this carrot? It is orange. See this rice. Rice. It is white and sticky. Feel it in your hand. Sticky." You get the idea. In this example, baby sees vegetables and hears their names and colors. She hears about textures and even gets to feel the sticky rice. All wonderful opportunities for baby's brain to categorize these new words and experiences.
2. Does your daycare provider talk to your baby?
I was chatting with a mom of 3 recently about the importance of talking to baby, even at daycare. I told her that parents needed to share the Daily 10 with their daycare provider to let them know it is important to them and to their baby. (Talking to baby is one of the Daily 10.) This mom told me that she just expected and assumed that the daycare provider talked to her babies. We can't assume this. Many providers are busy with lots of kids and babies and might not think to talk to your baby in the way that helps them develop their brain unless you ask them to and emphasize it's importance to you as a family. In fact, many daycare providers might not be aware of the research that outlines the benefits of talking directly to babies all the time using all kinds of words. You need to talk to them about what you want for your child and ask them if they do it or can start working toward doing it. You can share this article with them as a start.
3. How do you talk to your baby?
Most parents talk to the their babies during the day, but this often involves telling them, "Here is your bottle, sweetie" or "Let's get you a clean diaper, honey." This is wonderful, but to get more brain building benefits for baby, moms and dads can up the ante by saying "Here is your bottle, sweetie. Feel it. It is glass and is smooth. It is also warm so it tastes super yummy for you. Now feel your toy bunny's fur. (Put baby's hand on bunny and rub it back and forth). It is furry and different than your smooth bottle." That takes a few more seconds but gives baby lots more experiences to categorize and lots more words to help them build their brain.
Talking to baby is proven to help build their brain, but most parents could be talking a little differently to boost brain building for their babies. Think through how you are talking to your baby (or grandchild or niece or nephew) and add in some great new experiences by just adding a few more words. And remember to look baby in the eyes as often as you can. Enjoy this first year - it is truly time you can't get back.
Learn 101 additional activities around the right way to talk to your baby and more in the book Time You Can’t Get Back: What Every Parent Needs to be Doing During Baby’s First Year
Read a related post: "Most New Parents Are Missing Easy Opportunities to Develop Baby’s Brain"