Talking, reading or singing with your child for just one hour a day dramatically increases their vocabulary and grammar development, a new study has found.
The research, part of the ‘Growing Up in Australia’ study, compared the amount of time parents spent talking to their child with the vocabulary complexity and use of grammar of over 5,000 two and a half year old children around the country.
Presenting the findings at Speech Pathology Australia’s National Conference in Hobart this week, lead researcher Dr Deborah James said that the research demonstrates the importance of talking to young children during daily activities like bathing, feeding and playing.
“We found that children whose parents spent more than 16 minutes a day talking with them had significantly more complex vocabulary,” Dr James said.
“We also found that children who received around an hour of parental talk every day used longer and more grammatically accurate sentences, for example saying ‘Don’t want you to read that book’ rather than ‘Don’t read book’.”
As these early vocabulary and grammar skills are linked with later social, emotional, literacy, numeracy and academic skills, this investment has the potential to equip them for social and academic success. Without such investment, children may be at increased risk for social rejection by their peers and academic failure.
This study is important as it is one of the few to exclude such an extensive range of external factors that can impact on a child’s speech and language development, such as gender, birth order, breast feeding, level of parental education, socio-economic status and parenting style.
Dr James hopes that the study’s findings will encourage parents to spend a little longer talking, reading and singing with their children.
“Communication influences emotional, social, literacy, mathematical, academic and vocational outcomes, yet 20 per cent of children aged up to five years old don’t have age-appropriate communication, speech and language skills,” Dr James said.
“By investing just one hour talking, singing and reading to your child each day, parents have the opportunity to help their child onto a healthy developmental trajectory and increase their life chances for academic success, social fulfilment and engagement in the workforce.”