We all know that talking to our kids is important. How we converse with our teeny tiny people will go a long way to shape them as adults, from how they treat others to their core values. Now, it's been revealed that it goes beyond that - talking to your children actually changes their grey matter.
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According to a new study, how you talk to your child develops their brain in a pretty huge way. While we're all guilty of using flash cards in the hope that it'll help them learn, the key is to involve them in active conversation, according to cognitive scientists at MIT. The team studied a group of kids between the ages of 4 and 6, and found that engaging in regular talks with them can boost the child's brain development and language skills. Researchers measured the results by using a range of tests and MRI scans, finding the same outcomes regardless of parental income or level of education.
"The important thing is not just to talk to your child, but talk with your child. It's not just about dumping language into your child's brain," explains graduate student Rachel Romeo. "Actually carry on a conversation." The findings of the study come as a revelation, following on from a seminal study in 1995 that suggested wealthy families were at an advantage. According to those results, kids from well off backgrounds were exposed to around 30 million more words by the age of three than those from the poorest families. This led scientists to believe that children from different backgrounds would be on very different developmental trajectories which could have a profound effect later on in life.
This new research now suggests that the number of words used doesn't seem to matter, but that it's more reliant on the direction of the conversation and how many different subjects parents cover. By rigging kids up with a microphone which recorded all the different words they heard at home, researchers were able to monitor the back and forth exchanges between parents and children, finding that number of conversational turns had a big part to play in the scores in a range of language tests.
It's time to turn off the tablet and have a good ol' fashioned conversation.