Talk with Your Baby to Build Life Skills | Inspiring Health | © Sacred Heart Hospital

Talk with Your Baby to Build Life Skills

Talking with children may help set them up for success.

Children can learn anywhere from 86 to 98 percent of their vocabulary from their parents. Studies have shown that the more words children hear, the more accomplished they may become in their school and adult years.

“What’s especially important is turn-taking,” says Patricia Marsnik, MS, CCC/SLP, Speech and Language Pathologist at Prevea Health. “Research shows that the number of words a child hears is important, but it is not the only factor. They need a parent or caregiver who is responsive to them.”

What Can I Do?

Marsnik recommends these methods when talking with your child and teaching new words:

  • Play narrator. “Describe as many experiences to your child as possible,” Marsnik says. “Label objects, actions, and locations. Describe temperatures, colors, and textures.” This can be done during everyday activities, such as meals, bath time, and car trips.
  • Read a lot. “Reading is great!” Marsnik says. “Even if a child won’t listen to an entire story, simply pointing to and labeling pictures is a great tool for learning language.”
  • Limit screentime. Children hear a lot of words on television, but the communication is one-way. “They miss turn-taking,” Marsnik says. “Children learn by interacting with others. When they watch a show, they’re being talked at, not talked to.”

First Connections

To say that parents of newborns are busy is an understatement.

Enter First Connections, a program available for parents of babies born at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital or HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital.

When a baby is born at either facility, the family is visited by a case worker from either the River Source Family Center in Chippewa Falls for HSHS St. Joseph’s or Family Resource Center in Eau Claire for HSHS Sacred Heart. New parents are given parenting information, encouragement, and guidance in ways to welcome the newest member of their family.

First Connections offers parents a free tote bag containing a onesie or pair of socks for the baby that’s also filled with information from local resources. For example, the Chippewa Health Improvement Partnership provides a magnet with numbers of local resources, such as a public health nurse and where to receive economic support. The Chippewa Falls Public Library offers their free program called 1000 Books Before Kindergarten that helps parents expose their child to reading. There’s also a letter detailing what to expect during the first year of parenting.

“First Connections is a community partnership,” says Rhonda Brown, Director of 3D Community Health: Body.Mind.Spirit, a service line of HSHS St. Joseph’s and Sacred Heart hospitals. “We wouldn’t be able to offer parents this kind of support if it weren’t for the members of our community.”

First Connections is a program aimed at parents of new babies born at one of our birthing centers. Parent service providers offer support and information to these families through a short visit and a gift bag full of resources.

You may also be interested in “Identifying Postpartum Depression in New Moms.”