Your baby’s gurgles and coos may not make much sense to you, but new research shows that the simple act of pretending to understand your baby’s babbles may make your little one smarter in the long run. The research, published in the journal Infancy, says that babies, “must develop the phonology of sounds and the ability to use vocalizations in social interactions” in order to build effective communication skills. Within this new study, the researchers looked at how a mother’s responsiveness to her baby’s coos and babbling may help tots develop better vocal communication skills, and what they found was amazing. When a mom would respond to her baby as if she understood him in a nice conversational style, it was shown to speed up the baby’s language development more than when mothers just talked about them or at them. Even better, when moms responded to their baby’s vocalizations, babies showed an increase in developmentally advanced, consonant–vowel vocalizations and some language measures. This study shows why spending lots of time really talking to your baby in a normal, conversational tone is vitally important if you want your little one to develop healthy language skills. Of course, chatting with your baby also has other perks, such as bonding, successful later school performance — and better early speech and language skills are overall associated with success in developing reading, writing, and interpersonal skills, in childhood and in adulthood. So, the next time your baby coos at you, smile, engage by looking him in the eye and talk back to him knowingly!

+ Maternal Responsiveness and the Development of Directed Vocalizing in Social Interactions

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