Psychologist Anne Fernald said that the effects are so profound that talking to children should be treated with the same importance as feeding them.
And it is never too early to start.
Dr Fernald said: ‘If you want your child to do well in school then talk to them as a baby.
‘If you bring a child into the world, we take on the responsibility for feeding them, keeping them clean and keeping them safe.
‘I think we now have enough scientific evidence to add something else to that list – and that is providing a level of learning from infancy on.‘Long before your baby is speaking, it is absorbing information about language.’In a series of studies on babies, Dr Fernald, of Stanford University in California, showed that there are big differences in how quickly children process words.Speedy processing is important because it frees up the brain to think about the next word – or the world in general.Dr Fernald said: ‘You are building a mind that can conceptualise and imagine and think about the past and think about the future.’She also showed that children who are quick at understanding words tend to hear more words at home.
Never too early to start: Researchers say talking and reading to your baby as soon as possible is hugely beneficial.
In her studies, some youngsters had as few as 600 words a day directly spoken to them. To put this in context, the average adult speaks around 200 words a minute.
Other children heard more than 12,000 words.
Dr Fernald has also shown that children who can quickly process words at the age of two do better at school at the age of eight.
Other research has shown that youngsters who do well in primary school are more likely to go onto higher education, get a good job, remain married and stay out of prison.
However, not all words are equal.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual conference, was told that lack of interactivity means that TV does nothing to help children learn language.
Simply overhearing something is also of little help.
Books, however, are ‘fantastic’.
Not only do they contain rich and varied language that fires the imagination but children are required to work their memory to follow the plot.
The Chicago conference heard that baby talk is of mixed benefit.
Erika Hoff, of Florida Atlantic University, said that babies like sing-song tone and pauses that it contains.
However, they require ‘rich and complex language’ and ‘can’t learn what they can’t hear.
Professor Hoff said: ‘The advice I give to mothers is to have conversations with your babies.
‘If you are paying attention to your child’s engagement, you don’t have to worry about the conversation being too complex or too simple.
‘You don’t need to worry about the details.’
Source Daily Mail
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