My dog Lola is trained to go sit on her bed whenever I say, “Place”. Being the table-scrap-loving dog that she is means that I usually say, “Place. Place! PLACE!” to her each time I want to end the shameless begging.
I also have an 18-month-old daughter, Caroline. Needless to say, one of Caroline’s first words was place, and she now points to Lola’s bed to stop Lola from eating things off of her plate.
Caroline picked up place so quickly because she heard it a few thousand times during the first year of her life. Needless to say, the more kids hear certain words, the sooner they’ll speak them. Conversely, the fewer words they hear, the longer it will take them to speak. Caroline probably hasn’t ever heard the word cutlery, so it’s not terribly surprising that it isn’t in her daily vocabulary. Likewise, I never once saw or heard of pomegranates as a child, so while I love the fruit today, that word wasn’t part of my early vocabulary. I also never heard any Spanish words, and much to my high school Spanish teacher’s dismay, did not quickly pick up the language. Notice a pattern yet?
It’s really pretty simple. If you want your baby to talk early, talk more to your baby. There is a catch, though. Your baby has to be paying attention. Just as my wife often says that I “hear” her without actually listening, you’re not going to get very far if your baby isn’t paying attention to you.
Things that get a baby’s attention: Reading books, eye contact, tickling, good singing, bad singing
Things that distract a baby: TV, blinky toys, your phone in baby’s hands, your phone in your hands
Sadly, TV does nothing to build your baby’s vocabulary. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Thirty years of research tells us that babies only learn words when they hear them spoken by real people. The good news is that parents (along with aunts, uncles, grandparents and pretty much anyone else) are real people.
The best part? You don’t need to find extra time in your day to talk more to your child. Most parents who use the Starling quickly realize how quiet they often are around their children. Entire meals, baths, car rides, and diaper changes can pass without a single word uttered. It’s pretty easy to turn that around once you’re aware it’s happening.