Are you using your words? It's never too early to start!

We all think we talk a lot to our babies and children, every day. But we also know there are things that compete with that time: TV, texting, email, web surfing. At the end of the day, we as caregivers and parents can suddenly find that the hours have slipped away and we haven’t quite done as much as we’d like to interact with our babies and children. 

The staff at Allegheny County (Pa.) Department of Human Services (DHS) knows that modern life offers so many choices for busy parents and caregivers.

But DHS staff, being knowledgeable in many aspects of child welfare and development, also know that talking to babies is so important that it has launched an interesting and informative campaign reminding adults to talk to the little ones in their care – early, often and face-to-face. The campaign is called “Use Your Words: Your Baby is Listening and Learning.”

The campaign draws on research from the University of Kansas showing that the more words children hear in their earliest years of life, the better. The sheer number of words they hear — no matter what the words are — affects their vocabulary growth and overall language experience.  

DHS’s campaign information says that if you watch babies or toddlers interacting with their parents, you can almost see the children soaking up the information being conveyed through both body language and speech. 

Think of talking to your little ones like teaching reading and writing: Children learn to read and write by being around and watching adults. They learn to talk that way, too, so talking to babies regularly from the time they are newborns is important. 

Plus, research shows verbal communication with young children also has the benefit of encouraging social and emotional development, the “Use Your Words” campaign says. In fact, the campaign says that the mere act of talking early and often with infants and little ones improves communication for children no matter where they live, what language they speak or how much education their parents received. All you have to do is talk to them. 

What a relief to find something so easy to help your children!                           

Allegheny County DHS has set up a web page with lots of information, including tip sheets to jumpstart the fun of talking with your children, at www.alleghenycounty.us/dhs/use-your-words.aspx 

Updates and links to more information will periodically be Tweeted as well. Follow #useyourwords.