Thinking today of Jane Brody’s article in the September 28th New York Times, “From Birth Engage Your Child With Talk”. The article discusses the importance of parents and caregivers talking to their infants and young children, rather than tuning in to their cell phones, Blackberries, and iPods (and tuning out their young charges.)
As Brody points out, the benefit to infants from having their parents talk to them is pretty clear (i.e. they learn to talk.)
What Brody doesn’t discuss are the benefits enjoyed by parents from such exchanges. Here are a few I came up with:
1. Any parent taking the long view realizes that he or she should take full advantage of any time period in which the child willingly listens to them.
2. Even more valuable is any time period in which the parent is allowed, even smilingly applauded, for repeating him or herself. (Babies are rarely heard to complain: “Mom, I heard you already.”)
3. Babies are among the few people (outside of talk radio audiences) who greet nonsense talk with glee.
4. Babies will laugh at even your stupidest jokes. Babies will especially laugh at your stupidest jokes. (Subtle plays on words tend to fall flat unless (i) you do too, and (ii) it’s something like “shoe”, “atchoo”, and “shoo!” said to the cat.)
5. Babies like to hear you sing. Babies love to hear you sing.
6. Pointing things out to babies – the red rose bushes, the white clouds, the blue rapidly oncoming car—makes you notice such things as well. A distinct advantage over cell phones.
7. While it is true that a baby, if screaming or vomiting in the car seat, can be a significant distraction to the driver, studies have yet to show that they increase accident rates by 23 times.
8. Babies’ super-active brains are hard-wired to learn language (and many other things). As a result, they are probably the “smartest” conversationalists you’ll ever have even if relatively silent; they take your words literally to heart.
9. Most parents really do want a child who can talk to them some day, even to say “Mom, I heard you already.” (Another person to call on the cell.)
10. Babies don’t charge for roaming.
If you have a baby, or know one, and want something to read to them with numbers and elephants and whimsical (sorry!) watercolors, check out 1 Mississippi by Karin Gustafson at link above or on Amazon.