The National Literacy Trust has launched a brand new website as part of the National Year of Communication’s ‘Hello’ campaign: www.talktoyourbaby.org.uk
As a parent, one of the most valuable gifts you can give your child is the gift of language and the ability to communicate with others. Think of your day to day life and then try to imagine how different it would be if you didn’t feel confident about communicating with other people. It’s almost impossible to imagine isn’t it? And that’s because language and communication skills are absolutely central to our day to day lives.
But doesn’t talk come naturally? We all spend so much time talking that it’s easy to forget that although the vast majority of children will eventually learn to talk, communication skills aren’t entirely innate. As parents we’ve got a huge and very positive role to play in supporting and nurturing the development of these skills in our children.
When should I start? It’s literally never too early to begin talking to your baby! Getting to know your baby starts before birth. Even while your baby is still in the womb it can already hear your voice. Research shows that when babies are born they recognise their mother’s voice and first language compared to other languages and other voices. So from day one your baby will find your voice reassuring and enjoy it when you smile, talk or just simply take the time to focus and engage closely with them. By making a connection with your baby from the earliest possible opportunity, you are starting are a lifelong conversation with your child that will benefit both of you more than you could possibly imagine.
The ‘window of opportunity’. Research has shown that your child will never learn faster than when they are a baby or young toddler. Did you know that by the age of two a staggering 70% of your child’s brain will be formed and by the age of three it’s 80%. That’s why it’s so important to see the first three years of your child’s life as an amazing ‘window of opportunity’ and to make every day count. During this first 1,000 plus day of life, your baby’s brain is like a sponge. So use each and every opportunity to talk, talk, talk!
So what are the benefits? The benefits of talking to your baby are almost limitless. It’s not just about helping your baby learn new words, it’s about instilling confidence in them and about helping them understand the basic rules of social engagement that will enable them to form meaningful work and emotional relationships.
Starting talking to your baby can be daunting though! Especially if you’re not used to talking to babies as is the case for many people when they become first time parents. The key thing to realise is that there’s no huge ‘art’ to it. Don’t feel the pressure to always say something exciting, it’s all just about immersing your home in language!