In a recent study by Anne Fulkerson and Sandra Waxman compared the response of infants to words verses other sounds or tones. The study included 128 infants, half were six months and the other half twelve months. The infants were shown a set of 8 slides of either fish or dinosaurs. All slides where the same category and then were shown another slide with both a fish and a dinosaur. Half of the infants heard an audio of a woman describe the slide while the other half heard tones the same duration as the audio of the words. Fulkerson and Waxman found that the infants who heard the words spent more time looking at the slide from the new category.
Well, that is a nice little study but what does it really matter? Language development starts essentially at birth. It is important for infants to be spoken even before they are able to talk. Talking to an infant provides intellectual stimulation as well as intellectual comfort. Talk to your infant, talk about what is happening around you, point out things in your environment, use words of affirmation but most importantly talk. Avoid using “baby talk”. Use the correct grammar. One of the best ways to develop a child’s vocabulary is by talking to them and using “big” words, if necessary explain the meaning of the word.
Reading aloud is another great way to develop language. Children of all ages enjoy being read to and for the youngest the tone and process of being read to is more important than the content. I am reminded of the scene from Three Men and a Baby where Tom Sellec’s character is holding the baby and reading from Sports Illustrated or similar magazine. He used a pleasant tone and read with expression as if reading a children’s story. For the infant it was the process of being held and hearing the words that was important.
Source: Cognitive Daily