Grandma’s Recommendation: Add Exposure to New Experiences to The Power of Talking to Baby

oldmother“The Power of Talking to Baby,” is the title of an article in the New York Times, Sunday, April 14, 2013 by Tina Rosenberg.  Her thesis is that “rich children hear more words than poor ones, and it matters.”  It seems that richer, more educated parents talk more to their children than poorer less educated ones, but Ms. Rosenberg says we don’t know exactly why.  She says:

By the time a poor child is 1 year old, she has likely already fallen behind middle-class children in her ability to talk, understand and learn.  The gap between poor children and wealthier ones widens each year and by high school it’s a chasm . . .Researchers have answered the question in different ways.  But another idea is creeping into the policy debate: that the key to early learning is talking—specifically the greater a child’s exposure to language spoken by parents and caretakers from birth to age 3, the better.  It turns out that the much ridiculed stream of parent-to-child baby talk is very, very important. (So put those smartphones away!).

A study was done in 1995 by researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley, who found:

Children whose families were on welfare heard about 600 words per hour. Working class children heard 1,200 words per hour, and children from professional families heard 2,100 words per hour, and children from professional families heard 2,100 words.  By age 3, a poor child would have heard 30 million fewer words in his home than a child from a professional family.  And the disparity mattered: the greater the number of words children heard from their parents or caregivers before they were 3, the higher their IQ and the better they did in school.  TV talk not only didn’t help, it was detrimental.

Here are Grandma’s recommendations.  This Grandma  says  to add exposure to new experiences to the power of talking to baby.

  1. We now know TV is detrimental to language development.  We know the working parents of our grandchildren are tired when they come home.  Yes, TV helps with some adult decompression time.    However, knowing how important talking to a baby and small child is, tell the parents to tell the children about their day.  If they are picking the grandchild up from daycare or preschool, talk about what they see on the way home.  Sing songs.  Play I spy.  Rhyme words.  Make sure the caretakers and nannies know the importance of talking to babies and preschoolers.
  2. Sometimes, the parents make fun of our constant chatter and babble to our grandchildren.  We now have ammunition with the above article and research.  Grandparents need to just share anything going on.  Constant chatter and babble is good!  If you cannot babble, read rhyming books.  Walk outside and teach names of plants, flowers, trees.    There is lots of new vocabulary right in the house, the year, and the neighborhood!
  3. Having been a teacher for several years, this Grandma knows we should not stop with talking.    Emphasize the importance of not leaving the baby or small child home even to go on simple errands.  Parents can talk even about what is on the shelves in the supermarket.  Parents and grandparents can take a field trip to the local nursery, local firehouse, local hardware store—even with the baby and preschooler (of course, keep them safe) and talk and talk and talk.

Grandparents tend to take grandchildren to events and activities earlier than parents.  We cannot wait to share life with our precious grandchildren.  This Grandma has heard the parents of our grandchildren say we are wasting our time and money and that they are too small to appreciate the event or activity.  We know now that is not so.  It is the language, the speaking, the talk that accompanies the event and activity that is important according to the research.

There is other valid and important educational research that EXPOSURE to people, places and things, EXPOSURE to travel, events and activities that expands the horizons (and improves the IQs) of our precious grandchildren.  Take them along.  Travel and take them to museums, zoos, parks, earlier than you think they should go.

Ivy league here our grandchildren come!

So, the research shows our precious baby and preschool grandchildren are sponges.  We Grandmas knew that.  We did not need a study.  But having a study to back up our obsessive, over-the- top grandparenting does bring




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