We all want better for our kids. With so many articles and antidotes out there it’s hard to know which one to choose. What if I told you raising smart kids was easier than you could ever imagine? The other night I was reading a book titled How Will You Measure Your Life and I came across an interesting study by Todd Risley and Betty Hart.
Have you ever read something and thought you just uncovered something so important, yet you have a feeling nobody knows about it? That’s how I felt. There I was, 10:30 at night on Labor Day and I stumble across this research that is just blowing my mind. So I followed the rabbit trail and before you know it I’m sleepless. My mind is racing. Will I be able to implement this? It just seemed way too easy. I asked myself, if it’s really this easy, why isn’t everybody doing this?
The Importance of Talking to Your Baby
The study discussed the correlation between smart kids and amount of talking the parents did to the baby. That’s right, talking to your baby. The study discussed how more talkative (usually more educated) parents talked upwards of 2,150 words per hour to their babies, where as less talkative parents talked 600 words per hour.
The babies that heard more words in their first thirty months performed better in vocabulary and reading comprehension tests. Can you see why I was so fascinated with this study? Who doesn’t love talking to a baby? When a parent is engaging the baby in a conversation, the synapses of the babies brain are being exercised. The synapse’s are structures that allow signals to get passed from one neuron to another. The more synapses that get created the faster and easier your little baby will think in the future. Even though it might not seem like your little one is engaged and listening, trust that they are.
The average person talks approximately 150 words per minute. If you want to speak 2,150 words per hour to your baby, you will need to speak to them for roughly 14 minutes consistently.
In the book “How Will You Measure Your Life” the author talks about the compound affect. The parents that spoke 3.7 times more to their baby won’t have a mere 3.7 times more connections. Each brain cell can be connected by as many as ten thousand synapses, making the compound effect “exponential.” Think of this like that of a busy city. If there is one main road for it’s citizens traffic doesn’t travel fast. Increase the number of roads and traffic flows more freely. If you want your baby to think quicker, make quicker associations, and have greater recall, build more roads (synapses).
How to Talk
Not just any talk will do. Telling your kids what to do has little affect. Telling your infant “time for a bath” or “finish your food” does not cut it. Instead you must engage them in fully adult, sophisticated language. Ask them questions such as “what do you want to eat today” or “what do you want to do today?” Talk to them as if you were talking to another adult. Ask them thought provoking questions even if you feel like they don’t understand you, their brain is working. Make sure that you are encouraging them as well. The children of professionals heard twice as many encouraging words and twice as many unique words. In short, encourage and use big words.
As I was thinking about this article, I couldn’t help but wonder about the future. Were cell phones ever around when this study was done? This made me think of the adult that is bouncing their kid on their knee while looking at their cell phone. How many words is technology stealing from our babies? Will kids in the future be less smart?
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