Having a baby is a full time job. My little Luke is six months old and the barrage of extra activities is overwhelming. Some of it is expected, but not all of it. I expected the middle-of-the-night feedings, diaper disasters and countless hours singing nursery rhymes. I didn’t expect the extra hours of research. Is sunblock bad for little baby skin? Does dog dander really prevent allergies, or should I be sweeping the floor three times a day? What toys will stimulate his little brain? Every time I think I’ve read enough, another relevant study pops up and I am entranced by something I almost did wrong.
Most recently, this study caught my attention. Researchers recorded how infants were stimulated in 26 homes. The families were given three classes of toys: electronic, traditional and board books. The parents were then instructed to play with each class of toys for fifteen minutes, while researchers recorded the at-home interaction. The study was all about words, and the results weren’t surprising. The parents used significantly more words when their babies were playing with the board books. They used the least words when the infants were engaged in play with the electronic toys.
I finally understand why my pediatrician insisted we start reading to Luke at such a young age. I had originally assumed that it was to train my husband and myself. If we got into the habit early, maybe we’d continue once he was older. Actually, reading to very young children has a positive result right away. Hearing parents speak directly to them is an indicator of greater verbal development and processing. These skills directly impact a child’s success in school, which can in turn impact their success in life.
The take home message here is that reading to your kids is a great idea. If you don’t have the time to read the Wizard of Oz, encouraging children to play with traditional toys instead of electronic toys can also help ensure they get the language inputs their little brains need.