The study looked at 8,500 children in the United States. The researchers found that:
- preemies or babies with a very low birth weight, and babies whose mothers had health issues had smaller vocabularies.
- children with parents who frequently interacted with their children and read to them on a regular basis had larger vocabularies.
- girls tended to have a larger vocabulary than boys.
- children from higher socioeconomic homes had larger vocabularies.
- children with larger vocabularies at 24 months of age did better in reading and math and had fewer behavioral problems.
The researchers believe that interventions should be started early enough so that children who are at risk due to medical/health problems or socioeconomic disadvantages, have the time to develop and catch up. Interventions need to be targeted especially to toddlers who are living in disadvantaged homes.
Keep in mind that no two children develop exactly alike. Some are early bloomers while others are later bloomers. And one study cannot predict an individual child’s development.
What can you do?
The single most effective way to help your baby expand his vocabulary is to read to him. Start when your baby is born, and read every day. Reading aloud helps promote language skills – vocabulary, speech and later on, reading comprehension. See this post to learn just how important reading is for your baby and to learn where to get books. See the AAP’s article for tips on how to make it fun. And remember, the best parts about reading to your little one are the snuggles and cuddles that go along with it.
If your baby is showing signs of a developmental delay, speak with his health care provider, or contact your Early Intervention Program and ask for a free screening. If your child qualifies, he may receive personal, targeted intervention (such as speech therapy) to help him catch up.
Have questions? Text or email them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.
The study appeared in the journal Child Development.
Learn how to help your child in our Delays and Disabilities series.