Talking to Your Children is Important for Developmental Milestones

Numerous studies have conclusively shown, that talking to your children is important for its developmental milestones, especially in early formative years.

Developmental milestones are a set of functional skills or age-specific tasks that most children perform within a certain age range. They involve physical, social, emotional, cognitive and communication skills such as walking, sharing with others, expressing emotions, recognizing familiar sounds, talking etc.

In the year 1995, Betty Hart and Todd Risley published a paper tilted ‘Meaningful differences in everyday experiences of young American children’[1]. In this highly influential and respected study, the authors established a scientific link between children’s early family experience and their later intellectual growth. They studied families belonging to 3 different types of socio-economic classes: a. College educated, b. Working class and c. Poor families dependent on government welfare[2].

Benefits of Talking to your Children

Educated parents tend to talk a lot more to their children and this resulted in measurable lifelong advantages for their children. Some of the key findings from the study are:

  1. There is a direct and positive link between parents talking more to their children and rate of growth of the child’s vocabulary.
  2. Parents talking more to their children results in children scoring higher on standardised IQ tests in later life.
  3. By the age of 3 years, a child having college educated parents has heard 20-30 million more words than a child from a poor background!
  4. ‘Extra talk’ is more useful than ‘business talk’. In this context, ‘business talk’ is giving instructions to your child like ‘don’t do this!’ or ‘stop shouting’. Whereas, ‘extra talk’ is the non-essential general talk. Extra talk is what truly enhances the child’s vocabulary and language.

Subsequent studies have established that children of highly educated parents tend to engage in a lot more back-and-forth conversation with their parents. In other words, more dialogue and fewer monologues.

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The link between Developmental Milestones and Talking to your Children:

Eighty per cent of the physical brain develops in the first 3 years. At this stage, the brain is rapidly forming connections known as ‘synapses’. Synapses are crucial for learning, thinking and processing information[4]. Research has confirmed that talking more to your child positively impacts the development of synapses in the brain. Besides, it has also been shown to improve their emotional well-being and their ability to build healthy relationships[5]. Talking more to your child has a positive impact on its cognitive development.

In the Indian context, I think we ought to be thankful that we are a talkative society. How early should you start talking to your child? Again, research indicates, earlier the better[6]! On a side note, we have all heard the story of how Abhimanyu learnt how to enter ‘Chakravyuh’ while he was still in his mother’s womb!

Key takeaway & Recommendations by Experts:
  1. Talk to your child as possible as much as possible.
  2. Don’t just give instructions, talk about general things as well.
  3. Encourage your child to talk more.
  4. Have back-and-forth conversations with your child.
  5. Start talking to your child as early as possible.
  6. Talking has a positive impact on child’s cognitive, language, social and emotional development.
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Do you engage your child in a back-and-forth, non-essential extra talk? How do you do it?

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