Long story, but I was at a “Nerd Night” event this week (the short version of the long story is, “I like learning stuff”). One of the presenters was a professor of child psychology at an infant level and another was a professor of child psychology at a kindergarten level. I really enjoyed their talks on how much children absorb at incredibly young ages.
When I was a young mom, I must admit that sometimes I felt a bit silly talking endlessly to baby Tasha. She was a whopping five pounds when I brought her home from the hospital (she’d been there, in the NICU, for nearly a month). After such a long hospital stay, it was quite a relief to get her home but some of the normal, “new mom” homecoming rituals didn’t happen. Not a lot of supportive visitors (frankly, everyone was a bit burnt out by this point) and Darren had used up all the time off he could manage.
So, I found myself really quite alone as a brand new mother with a teeny, tiny baby. At first it was wonderful. Up until we brought her home, I’d mostly only had access to Tasha under the watchful eyes of very nice, but sometimes overwhelming, nurses. It felt a bit like having a month long audition for motherhood that I was sorely unprepared for, hehe.
So I got Tasha to myself, finally, and it was wonderful and weird and often a bit lonely.
I found myself talking to her… a lot. I had a pretty constant running stream of dialogue that involved my filling in both sides of the conversation.
What a beautiful day! Would you like to go for a walk? Of course, you’d like a walk. Mommy would too. Etc, etc.
With Kaitlyn (four years later) it was much easier because Tasha was there too, so it didn’t feel quite so much like I was talking to myself all day, hehe.
Anyways, fast forward a couple of decades and I find myself sitting in an old army barracks listening to a couple of child psychologists basically telling me that I wasn’t silly at all – in fact, I’d actually managed to do it right (well, that part of motherhood, anyways!)
It turns out that apparently, babies are able to differentiate “their” language (English, in our case) from other languages as early as four months, they can differentiate statements from questions as early as six months and they can read the facial cues that go along with sentences (happy, angry, curious, etc) before they are a year old. So even though they won’t start talking for quite some time, they are learning much of their basis for language from the moment of birth.
So! Keep talking to those babies, folks. Read books, ask questions and chat away about everything from the weather to which socks you want to wear to what surprises might be hiding in their diaper. Even though they can’t answer you, they’re learning a whole bunch.