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Talk to Your Child: A Foundation for Success


By Kelli Barkema
AmeriCorps VISTA, Early Childhood

Did you know that 80% of a child’s brain growth will happen before the child is four years old? Every word a child hears during these critical years of development only aids in their future success. Words generate connections that the brain uses to create the language environment of the young child. Kids who don’t hear enough words fall behind academically and don’t develop at the same rate as other kids who are constantly being spoken to and engaged with.

What should you do? Build your child’s brain. Talk to them, even if they can’t talk back. Yet many parents don’t know where to start.

If the thought of speaking to your child intimidates you, try the Three T’s. Dr. Dana Suskind teaches this approach in her book Thirty Million Words, Building a Child’s Brain.

  • Tune In – Make a conscious effort to notice what your child is focused on and talk to them about it. What is that? How does that work? Do you know what kind of sound that makes? 
  • Talk More – Talk with your child rather than to them. This is a more intentional and interactive approach. Words, words, words. Not only will this help with their brain’s development, but will also begin to strengthen your bond as a family.
  • Take Turns – Engage your child by using a sort of call and response when talking with them. Whenever they make a statement or ask a question, react with another question and keep this going as long as you can. Turn simple tasks into games by simply taking turns stating a fact, counting toys or listing objects.

Every word adds up. To quote Jeffrey Eugenides: “Biology gives you a brain. Life (and language) turns it into a mind.”

Check out our Welcome Baby program to find more support for parents of young children, or sign up for personalized parenting tips from Bright By Text.