Despite our incredibly busy lifestyles, parents are spending more time with their kids than ever before. In 2017, studies out of the University of Oxford and University of California found that over a 40 year period, mothers are spending about double the time they used to with their kids, and fathers more than triple the time. With all of that togetherness, our kids must be reaping the benefits, right?
As with most things, it's not so much quantity as it is quality. And Harvard Medical School researchers have set out to learn how parent interaction with children affects their language skills.
We've long been told about the importance of reading to our kids for a number of different reasons, but now we're learning that it isn't simply going through the motions of reading a book that will help our little ones. It's actually more about parental sensitivity and how they pick up on their child's cues.
Catherine Ayoub, a consulting developmental psychologist with HMS, and a team of colleagues studies 146 parents and their children who were enrolled in the Early Head Start program. They video recorded the interactions between parent and child at the ages of 12 months, 24 months, and 36 months, each time counting the number of words the kids said.
What they found was that when parents spoke to their littles in a loving, compassionate way, their children were more likely to speak a higher number of words than if their parents weren't as warm and engaging. As the kids got a little bit older, it becomes more important to let them lead while interacting, allowing them to move from activity to activity as they wish, instead of the parent dictating how the playtime goes.
Also important was the way in which parents acted during time spent together. If they engaged by asking their child to explain an activity, describe the environment, etc, the kids were more likely to expand their vocabulary.
It makes sense, the more we use our words, the more apt we are to learn and explore new ones. A little something to think about the next time you're spending quality family time together.