Parents may not understand a baby’s prattling, but by listening and responding, they let their infants know they can communicate which leads to children forming complex sounds and using
language more quickly.
That’s according to a new study by the University of Iowa and Indiana University that found how parents respond to their children’s babbling can actually shape the way infants communicate and use vocalizations.
The findings challenge the belief that human communication is innate and can’t be influenced by parental feedback. Instead, the researchers argue, parents who consciously engage with their babbling infants can accelerate their children’s vocalizing and language learning.
“It’s not that we found responsiveness matters,” says Julie Gros-Louis, assistant professor of psychology at the UI and corresponding author on the study, published in the journal Infancy. “It’s how a mother responds that matters.”
…What researchers discovered is infants whose mothers responded to what they thought their babies were saying, showed an increase in developmentally advanced, consonant-vowel vocalizations, which means the babbling has become sophisticated enough to sound more like words. The babies also began directing more of their babbling over time toward their mothers.
On the other hand, infants whose mothers did not try as much to understand them and instead directed their infants’ attention at times to something else did not show the same rate of growth in their language and communication skills.
In other words, when a baby says, “BLALALALALALALALA!” Parents who say, “What’s that, Baby? You want cuddles? Does my baby want cuddles? Yes you do! (kiss, kiss, snuggle, snuggle)” have infants who learn better language skills more quickly and efficiently than parents who don’t say such things often and consistently.
Communicating with infants is a wonderful and engaging activity. Check out Parenting with Grace for more ways you can get the most out of your relationship with your little one!