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New Fitbit-Like Device Tracks the Number of Words Your Baby Hears

When children are born, there are countless things new parents worry about. At first, many people focus on material items that will make the baby comfortable — a crib, stroller, teething toys, onesies, baby bath, soothing lotion, night lights — the list from any new mom's baby registry can seem endless. As the child grows, other things become more important, like educational toys, music classes, and sufficient exercise.

But if you had to guess the single most important thing you could provide for your baby, what would it be? Beyond the basics of a loving, stable, nurturing environment, the best thing that you can give your young child is the gift of language. According to "The Power of Talking to Your Baby" in the New York Times,

...the key to early learning is talking — specifically, a child’s exposure to language spoken by parents and caretakers from birth to age 3, the more the better. It turns out, evidence is showing, that the much-ridiculed stream of parent-to-child baby talk — Feel Teddy’s nose! It’s so soft! Cars make noise — look, there’s a yellow one!  Baby feels hungry? Now Mommy is opening the refrigerator! — is very, very important.

The impact of language on babies and toddlers is so substantial that a lack of sufficient communication over time can lead to a lifetime of deficits. We see the result of a wealth (or dearth) of language in the two ends of the socioeconomic spectrum.

Children whose families were on welfare heard about 600 words per hour. Working-class children heard 1,200 words per hour, and children from professional families heard 2,100 words. By age 3, a poor child would have heard 30 million fewer words in his home environment than a child from a professional family. And the disparity mattered: the greater the number of words children heard from their parents or caregivers before they were 3, the higher their IQ and the better they did in school. TV talk not only didn’t help, it was detrimental.

The more we speak to our children, the more they learn, the higher their IQ will be, and the more they will be able to thrive as they grow. But just how much are we talking to our kids? In an age where so much communication happens silently through smartphones and computers, are we taking the time to actually speak to our children? Are their caregivers? It can definitely feel tedious to narrate every activity throughout the day — especially with a small baby who can't respond. But that is exactly what a little brain needs in order to develop. How much do our children need to hear every day to ensure that they won't fall behind?