Between birth and age 3, a child has heard somewhere between 13 million and 45 million words. That’s not different words, but total words. The range then, between the number of words different children hear, is 30 million – that’s called “the 30 million word gap.” Right…it has a name…it must be serious. But why?
To understand the significance of the 30 million word gap, think first about the words required to get through the day with your average toddler. What kinds of things might you say to him?
“Get down, Sweetie.”
“Eat your eggs.”
“Don’t throw balls in the house.”
“Would you like a snack?”
Most parents do this. It’s necessary talk. So based on talking as a necessity to go through the routines of the day, would he be at the lower or higher end of the range? Probably the lower end.
So what can his parents do to ensure that he is at the higher end of the range, that he is a 45 million word child, by the time he is 3? And why does it matter anyway?
To reach 45 million words by the time he is 3, his parents will not merely increase the amount of directions they give to him…there really isn’t that many directions to give, and besides, that’s just quantity. What will happen, now that they are aware of how important it is to talk a lot to their son, is that they will talk to him when they don’t have to. They’ll start focusing on the quality of their words.
For instance, they will describe things they see while on a walk or at the park. They may explain why the squirrels are running frantically around the neighborhood during the month of October. They might make note of the changing trees and wonder out loud about why that happens.
After making a conscious effort during this time, his parents will experience such reward as they watch and listen to their son make connections with the world around him. They will be amazed at the vocabulary he uses and proud when he wonders out loud about how the trees suddenly have buds on the branches one day. But the most incredible part of being a 45 million word kid is what his parents can’t see which is all the neural networks that have formed in his brain.
So after all this hard work, they can’t even see the evidence of the payoff?
Actually, they will. They will see it each day when he confidently skips off to school. They will hear it when he comes home and tells them about how the trees might look dead during the winter but really they’re just kind of hibernating like some animals do. And then when he asks and points, “Dad, do you know why the needles on that tree don’t fall off like the leaves on that one do?”
The pay-off is a positive experience in school. And it’s because his parents consciously increased the quantity and quality of the words they used starting when he was born.
Simply Smart Kids calls talking when you don’t have to the “Language Dance” and we teach parents how to boogie with their babies!
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