Posted by TP Toys on 30th January 2015
The way people communicate with infants is different to how they interact with adults. While it can seem comforting to speak to a child in a sing-song voice, or slowly and using words such as 'tummy' rather than 'stomach', it may be doing more harm than good.
That is according to research from scientists at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan and researchers from Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique in Paris.
For the purposes of the study, the scientists recorded the speech of 22 Japanese mothers talking first to their child and then an adult, and the results were perhaps not what you would expect; women where slightly less clear when speaking to their baby than they were when they were chatting to a grown-up.
Alejandrina Cristia, one of the French scientists involved in the project, said: "This finding is important, because it challenges the widespread view that parents do and should hyper-articulate."
The researchers are unsure why this happens, although they have hypothesised that it could be something to do with the fact mothers are concentrating on communicating emotions or trying to gain their child's attention. This could lead them to be subconsciously less articulate.
Writing in an article for Scholastic.com, Dr Alice Honig, professor of child development at Syracuse University, suggests talking to your baby can really help their brain to develop and improve their ability to learn.
Dr Honig advises parents to talk during daily routines such as nappy-changing.
Providing names for anything a child shows an interest in is another good way to get them to develop their language skills.
She also suggests you can provide words to accompany the gestures an infant may be making. For instance, if they are waving, say 'wave bye bye/hello' and 'clap hands' if this is the motion they are doing.
It's not just babies who can do with a bit of prompting with their speech, toddlers can learn a lot with a little input from you.
Dr Honig suggests talking at mealtimes and labelling foods in order to encourage your little ones to do the same. She also advises parents to add to their sentences to teach young ones new words. So, for instance, if you serve a child pasta, ask if they would like red or green sauce with it.
Likewise, if a child asks to play with some Lego or a particular toy, ask them what type, i.e the big or small blocks.
She is keen to remind parents not to worry if youngsters miss out articles such as 'an' and 'the'.
It is also important to remember that toddlers often have difficulty pronouncing words. "Some sounds are very hard for little ones until they are four years of age. It is much more important to enjoy the pleasure of gabbing away with each other," she says.
Verbal scaffolding is a phrase used by Dr Honig to describe the process of offering up your child unfinished sentences to see if they can complete them. Arguably the best way to do this is with nursery rhymes they are very familiar with. For instance, try saying 'The Wheels on the bus go round and … '
Research from Emory University in Atlanta, USA, suggests that instructional videos can be helpful too, although there's no substitute for spending time talking with your little one.
The study found that babies were able to understand the signs for and pick out a photo of a related object after watching a video for 15 minutes, four times a week for three weeks. Those who had watched the DVD performed as well as those who had been taught signs by their parents.
After a week without instruction from parents or videos, both groups were able to produce the signs, but those who had been instructed by their mum and dad were able to recognise more overall.