'Not just diapering': Talking to your babies may boost their IQ, study suggests
A new study in the journal Pediatrics has found that talking to your toddler can enhance their development, including boosting IQ, verbal comprehension and vocabulary. (Pexels/Daria Shevtsova)
Published Wednesday, September 12, 2018 9:45AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 12, 2018 12:56PM EDT
Chatting with your child could set them up for a higher IQ, according to researchers in the U.S.
And they don’t mean “baby talk” or taking a phone call next to the stroller, but genuine back-and-forth conversation.
In a study published in the journal Pediatrics, a group of researchers found that a child’s development may be enhanced if parents listen and respond to children, particularly during the key developmental years of life before the child is two years old. Conversation could impact IQ, verbal comprehension and vocabulary, they said.
“Early childcare is not just about diapering and feeding,” said study co-author Jill Gilkerson, senior director of research and evaluation at the Colorado non-profit LENA Foundation, in an interview with CTVNews.ca. “It’s got to be about enhancing the child’s language environment to help development trajectories.”
The findings suggest that “early talk and interaction, particularly during the relatively narrow developmental window of 18 to 24 months of age, can be used to predict school-age language and cognitive outcomes,” the study, first published online Monday, read. “With these findings, we underscore the need for effective early intervention programs that support parents in creating an optimal early language learning environment in the home.”
Thousands of hours of recorded conversations between parent and child were analyzed from devices planted in a vest worn by toddlers. Software called Language Environment Analysis generated a “conversational turn count” between child and parent, the number of times a parent speaks and the child responds (even if it’s simply babble) within five seconds and vice versa. These conversations are more powerful for development than mere exposure to words, the study found after following up with children at ages nine and 14. In evaluation by certified speech-language pathologists and clinical psychologists, children whose parents chatted with them more fared better in language skills and cognitive abilities such as memory and reasoning.
It’s not quite as easy as “sit down and talk to your child,” said Gilkerson, but putting the research to use is still simple and should become routine. Gilkerson said to follow your child’s lead, repeat and expand on what they want to focus on, and implement shared book reading. Don’t read cover to cover, but instead talk about the book, point and discuss pictures. “Make sure you focus on what they’re interested in,” she said. “Get on their level and engage with what they want to talk about.”
The same sort of techniques should be stressed with early childcare workers, who are with many children for “more than half of their waking hours,” she said.
The study authors concede that the sample was not ethnically diverse and included few parents of a low socioeconomic status. While there are many factors that may impact a child’s development during the key period of 18-to-24-months, they conclude that conservation between parent and child could be powerful in “altering developmental trajectories.”
Exciting news! A 10-year study by LENA researchers, published today, confirms that the amount of talk with adults that babies experience in the first three years of life is related to their language skills, verbal abilities and IQ in adolescence. https://t.co/2qKLrgij2g pic.twitter.com/ZuZC3t8hAA— LENA (@LENAEarlyTalk) September 10, 2018