By: Deborah Watson
One of the first experiences young children have is listening to their environment, especially to the voices of their parents. Even while in the womb, babies are hearing and learning the nuances and rhythm of the language(s) spoken by their families and communities. Newborns often recognize the sound of familiar voices. A colleague was commenting just this past week that her nephew, although in a neonatal unit, recognized the sound of his father’s voice when he came to visit! This newborn, Sammy, actually turned toward his father as he grasped his father’s finger!
In an earlier blog, I urged all parents to talk with their children as often as possible. It is widely recognized that parents are a child’s first and most important teacher. Sammy’s relationships with his parents are at the heart of his development and learning. The interactions parents have with their child are powerful and long-lasting. Thinking of Sammy’s reaction to his dad, it’s readily apparent that his family began speaking to him while he was still in his mother’s womb. Sammy’s family will continue to speak to him every day, all day long. He will learn that language is a reciprocal relationship because he’ll coo and his parents will respond. This back and forth exchange is sometimes referred to as the “serve and return” process. Harvard University’s Center of the Developing Child does extensive research on the developing brain.