Category Archives: Linguistic

The best way to read with your 2-year-old

Including reading time in your daily routine not only boosts language development, but it provides special one-on-one quality time that strengthens the bond between you and your little one.

Depending on your child’s age, you can focus on different aspects of the reading experience to get the most out of it. The American Academy of Pediatrics has created a literacy toolkit that includes great tips for parents and caregivers who wish to make the most out of reading time! This article will summarize a few key points about reading with a 2-year-old throughout two stages: 24-29 months and 30-35 months. Within each age range, you’ll find examples of what your child can do and what you can do to maximize the reading experience!

24 to 29 months old

Your child can: At this age, your little one can choose a book to read together – it might be the same one over and over again! He’ll probably be able to repeat a few words and phrases you say while reading, and love to laugh at silly stories and pictures. Your child might be curious and ask simple questions about the book, like “What’s that?”

You can: Find a quiet, cozy place where you and your child can cuddle up and read together. This is a great way to calm and comfort your little one. While reading, pay attention to your child’s cues and respond with excitement. If he says an important word like “dog” you can say “Yes, that’s a dog! The dog is playing outside.” Read joyfully, using different tones of voice for each character. You can even count the objects in the pictures, and wait for your little one to repeat after you. Continue reading

The science behind baby-talk: more than a guilty pleasure!

Why is it that adults become all of a sudden fluent in “motherese” when there’s a baby in the proximity?

When you find yourself in the company of young children, be it your kids, a friend’s, or just the cute baby in her mother’s arms that you crossed at the coffee shop, chances are you have experienced for yourself that automatic and hard to ignore temptation to engage in the caricaturized “baby-talk” with them. What has science got to say about this phenomenon? And beyond its cuteness, is it actually beneficial for your baby’s linguistic and socio-emotional development?

When adults talk to babies and pre-linguistic infants, no matter what part of the world they are in or what language they use (anthropologists have found it native communities from Sri Lanka to Siberia), their speech gravitates towards using some particular features of what is formally known as “infant-directed speech”. This form of addressing infants is characterized by being an emotionally-charged and melodic tone with a higher pitch than usual. Vowels are stretched out, sentences are simplified, and facial gestures and emotional intonation is stressed. These characteristics of baby-talk are particularly emphasized by adults when they are addressing very young babies, and then naturally decrease as the child grows and his or her language skills develop. Continue reading

My Baby’s First Words

Babies learn to talk by imitation. We do not need to teach them word by word, all we have to do is talk constantly to them. By naming the objects and people they see they will begin to associate the word with the object or person. Then when they develop the adequate skills for speech they will begin to repeat those words to form their first words.

Generally speaking, a baby’s first word is “mama” or “papa/dada” but when this words are first spoken they are merely babbles don’t mean that they have learned to associate “dada” with dad or “mama” with mom. After babies learn to pronounce disyllables such as the examples above, you might hear them experiment with different sounds, and although none have true meaning just yet they are preparing to communicate verbally. Some babies as early as 9 months begin to form word-like sounds, but if your little one is not there yet be patient, most babies begin to speak words with meaning roughly around 11 to 16 months of age. It’s even considered normal for babies not to speak until 18 months of age. When babies begin to pronounce words with meaning, “mama” or “dada” will actually mean “mom” or “dad” – such a sweet sound to a parent’s ear! Continue reading

How to ignite bilingual learning!

Researchers have now discovered a play-based educational program that is capable of helping babies learn a second language in just one hour per day!

Scientists and parents have always been interested in knowing the advantages of learning a second language. What are these advantages and how do they aid in cognitive development? Bilingualism has been shown to improve cognitive abilities, especially problem-solving skills.

One question that parents and teachers always ask is how can we ignite second language learning? Can babies from monolingual families start to develop bilingual skills if we give them the right kind of opportunities and experiences? Continue reading

Babies learn language in the womb!

Research has discovered even more evidence on the process of language learning in babies. There is more going on during the prenatal stage than previously suggested. A study looked at babies who were adopted right after birth and who grew up hearing a different language than what they heard their moms speak in the womb. Researchers can see how what babies hear before and after birth affects the way they perceive sounds. So what is the birth of a language?

“Researchers have known, for some time now, that newborns prefer listening to voices speaking the same language they heard in the womb”, says Anne Cutler, a psychologist and professor at the Marcs Insitute. Newborns can actually recognize the same voice they heard during the last trimester in the womb, especially their mother’s sounds, and prefer listening to similar voices than hearing the voice of a stranger. They also have a preference for languages with similar rhythms than languages with different ones. Newborns indicated this preference by sucking longer on rigged pacifiers that enabled them to hear one speakers voice versus another or a language versus another.

Dr. Cutler states that researches used to think that babies didn’t actually learn any language units — the smallest units of sounds that make up words and languages until the six months of life. However, new research includes recent studies that challenge this notion. Continue reading

How to Better Predict a Baby’s First Word

A new study suggests that a toddler’s visual experience may play a key role in learning their first word.

After their first year of staring and babbling, babies eventually begin to say their first words. Although millions of parents are aware of this, researchers at Indiana University and the Georgia Institute of Technology recently cracked the code, discovering a major role in a baby’s first words: a baby’s first words are strongly tied to their visual experience.

Drawing on theories of statistical learning, researchers discovered that the number of times an object enters a baby’s visual field increases the probability of a baby’s ability to associate that specific word with the object. Visual memory is key into getting words stuck on objects. All those familiar visual objects such as fork or bottle work as an aggregated experience, first words are slowly learned for few visually pervasive objects.

Linda Smith, professor of psychological and brain sciences, and her colleagues went inside a baby’s brain to figure this out. People assume babies see the same things their parents see. After all, they live in the same house and ride the same cars. However, it turns out babies are not good at controlling their bodies and they are not interested in looking at the same things adults look at. As babies gradually develop, their visual world shifts. A 3 month old baby and a 1-year-old baby have totally different visual experiences. Researchers were interested in getting a sense of the visual world of babies who are close to saying their first words, so they placed head video cameras in 8 to 10 month old infants and captured 247 at-home mealtime events and analyzed the objects in view. Why meal events? These are activities are performed continually on a daily basis and make up a big percentage of a baby’s daily visual experience. Results showed that there was a strong correlation between the most frequently appearing objects with the top words appearing in the images collected by the study. This study’s conclusion suggests that a visual experience is a key factor in early world learning. Continue reading

Background noise may hinder a toddler’s ability to learn new words

Does your toddler find it hard to learn new words? Have you observed the environment he is exposed to when he learns? A new study found that too much background noise (TV, people talking or traffic blast) at home or school can make it difficult for toddlers to learn new words.

 

“Learning words is an important skill that provides a foundation for children’s ability to achieve academically,” said Brianna McMillan, a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and lead author of the study.

 

The study, published in the journal Child Development, was led by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It consisted of three experiments in which 106 children from 22 to 30 months took part in. In the study, the toddlers were taught names of unfamiliar objects and then tested on their ability to recognize the objects when they were labeled. In order to understand how different levels of background noise affected the toddlers’ ability to learn, the team repeated the experiment with different amounts of background noise.

 

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Baby signing: Communication through gestures

If you have been paying close attention to your baby, you have probably noticed that before he can even talk he has been trying to communicate with you. Crying, pointing, smiling and laughing are all forms of communication and although at first it can be a guessing game, with time and effort you can identify what your little one means to say.

If you wish to understand your baby’s needs and desires with greater ease you could try a personalized version of baby sign language.

What is baby sign language?

Baby sign language is a communication tool that seeks to motivate babies to communicate with gestures. It works by using manual signing that allows babies to communicate wants and even emotions before they can talk.

This form of communication decreases frustration, promotes language development, and helps increase the parent-child bond. The evidence regarding these claims is still limited but there has been lots of praise and positive anecdotes from parents and professionals who use this tool.

Complementing language with gestures and signing might diminish the frustration experienced by children who know what they want but still do not have the verbal skills to express themselves. Signing with babies is a promising and interesting field for research. Preliminary findings have identified that perhaps being attuned to their little one’s gestures motivates parents to be more mindful of their baby’s unique forms of communication leading to a decrease in miscommunication and therefore supports a healthy attachment.

So how do you begin?

If you want to try baby sign language you can begin at home with these easy steps. Continue reading

Language Milestones: Your baby’s first words

Much to parents’ delight, babies’ first words are normally “mama” and “dada”. Actually “dada” is typically said first, but only because it’s easier for babies to pronounce! Other than the fact that mom and dad are around a lot – studies have shown that those are the first words babies utter because of the repeating sounds in them. In fact, most countries have very simple words with repeating sounds for naming mom and dad, and sometimes even grandpa and grandma.

Newborns’ brain scans show increased activity when babies listened to made-up words with repeating sounds like “mubaba”. When they listened to words with non-adjacent repetition, like “bamuba”, they showed no distinctive responses. This suggests that babies recognize repetitive sounds more easily, and that’s why words like “mama” or “dada” are easy to learn and vocalize. Continue reading

Tablets and Smartphones, should my baby use them?

Tablets and smartphones are great! They allow us to communicate with distant friends and relatives; they organize our day; have GPS that gets us to new places; help us make reservations, shop, read, and much more. They contain an infinite number of applications that even include an extensive catalog for children. Allowing or banning smartphone and tablet use for babies poses an ongoing debate that is very present in the area of early education. Should babies be exposed to screens? If so, for how long? The American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) first stance regarding technology and babies recommends no screen time the first two years of life. However, this position was first introduced 15 years ago, and today it has come to be questioned by specialists in the area of pediatrics. The AAP media committee has re-evaluated its screen time position taking into account the recent technological boom. They now agree that a total screen ban seems to be no longer viable. Therefore, a change in the AAP’s digital exposure guidelines is predicted in the coming years.

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