Research on language and brain development shows that the number of words a child hears in the first three years determines their academic success later in life.
Babies are learning all the time, so how and how much we talk to them is really important because words don’t only help them to create an understanding of the world, they are also helping their brains grow.
Unfortunately not all children are exposed to the same kind of language environment in the first few years of their lives. Children born into poor families hear 30 million fewer words on average before they reach the age of three than children born into wealthier families. This difference causes an achievement gap and according to the experts this gap cannot be closed later in life, in fact chances are that this gap will widen.
In the United States an initiative of parent talks has been launched to help parents regardless of their socio economic status understand the power of talk. It is important to know that sitting a child in front of the TV is no replacement for human interaction, stories being read to them and being engaged in conversation. Babies learn a lot from being talked to long before they speak back.
The use of baby sign language is wonderfully complementary with exposing your child to lots of words every day. Sing language makes it very easy to use lots of words and use the same word in many different sentences. When you simultaneously speak and sign with your child, you engage both hemispheres of the brain (the language centre is located in the left brain hemisphere whereas the visual input is processed in the right hemisphere of the brain). This stimulates brain development and brain hemisphere integration.
Children are able to use their hands to communicate a long time before the complex musculature needed for speech develops sufficiently for clear communication. This does not only put the child in the position to practice the active use of language much earlier, it also comes with the advantage that you can understand your child long before speech is an option. The benefits of that are priceless!