Study shows why talking to babies helps

Babies learn more from hearing words than they do from listening to tones, according to new research. A study at Northwestern University in Illinois in the United States found that at three months old, babies could already use language to help them understand the world around them.Lead author Alissa Ferry said, ‘This is the youngest we have found an impact of language on how infants group objects in their environment. In some ways it is unexpected, but recent research with infants keeps showing us they know far more than people expect.’ She added, ‘Parents and carers should be talking to their babies well before they say their first words. Children are learning about their language and using it to help them figure out the world.’

Researchers showed three and four-month-old babies a series of pictures of different fish. Half heard the words for the picture, while the other half heard a beeping noise. The children were then shown pictures of dinosaurs. The babies who heard words got bored quickly with the fish pictures as they had formed the category, but those who heard the beeping sound looked equally as long at the dinosaur and the fish pictures.

Speaking on behalf of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, Sue Roulstone, Professor of Speech and Language Therapy at the University of the West of England in Bristol, said, ‘This research shows that words are an important mechanism for helping babies make sense of the world, to organise what they see and to focus on the similarities and differences between objects. The research confirms the importance of talking to your baby right from the start.’

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