According to two new research studies, listening to what your children have to say is just as important as talking to them. This interaction is key to their language development. Speaking to your child is still important, but it seems that the give and take of conversation matters more.
Parents have been told to talk to their infants and toddlers as much as possible by reading, storytelling, and narrating daily events. But new research suggests that parents should take this one step further. Parents should get kids talking as much as possible, too.
To see how adult speech, TV viewing, and adult-child interaction affects language development, researchers analyzed data from 275 children who wore a small digital device that recorded every sound within their earshot. The children were between ages 2 and 48 months. They wore the device for an average of five full days over six months.
The kids heard about 13,000 spoken words from adults and participated in about 400 adult-child conversations a day. But only adult-child conversation was linked with better language skills.
The positive effect of these conversations might be due to active correction of mistakes by parents. Also, more conversations lead to more opportunities for mistakes to be corrected. They also provide more chances for the child to practice and consolidate new language.
The researchers found that TV viewing didn't have much of an effect on language development, as long as it wasn't decreasing the number of conversations between an adult and child.
That, however, may be what's happening in many homes. Another study found that for every additional hour of television exposure, young children heard 770 fewer words from adults. And infants made fewer vocalizations when the TV was on.
How to Encourage an Exchange
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children avoid screen time until at least age 2. In its place experts suggest interactive play with the child.
Parents should continue to talk to their children, read them books, and tell them stories. But at the same time, they should try to elicit talk from their child.
To help foster your child's language skills, follow these tips:
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Today's kids spend a lot of time in front of the television. But for children ages 2 and older, experts say it's best to limit TV time to one or two hours a day. The more TV kids watch, the greater their risk for becoming overweight.
To cut down on your children's tube time, keep the TV off during dinner and out of their bedrooms. Also, encourage alternative activities:
Always consult your physician for more information.