Early childhood talk vital to increasing babies' vocabulary


A new campaign launched today is making an attempt to address educational differences between children when they arrive at school.

The Next Foundation has seed-funded the Talking Matters campaign, which it says will "find ways for communities to wrap rich language environments around babies and young children".

Some children start with a language advantage that comes from their parents' knowledge of early education, and the campaign wants to see all children get that same advantage.

Communication in the first 1000 days is critical in a child's development, Talking Matters director Alison Sutton said.

"It's in that first 1000 days that the architecture of their brain develops pathways that optimise how they learn - so what you do at the start has life-long consequences," she said.

A baby's brain makes 700 new connections a second, and 80 percent of their brains are developed by the time they're a three-year-old.

A lot of mothers are keen communicators - and sometimes in more than one language.

"I read in Russian and English, quite often at least one or two books every day.  She likes when I sing to her and she sings along as best she can," Maria Zhuravela said.

Other mothers said they went to the effort to ensure they were talking frequently with their child.

"She was always very aware of my mouth, and I'm full of expressions - we quite like to have big expressions at home." Karis Bowry said.

"I just think it's good for his development and it keeps me sane as well." added Danielle McNaughton

International research shows by the age of four, some children have heard 30 million more words than others.

In New Zealand, research shows some children starting school are able to use 6000 words, but others are using just 3000.

Ms Sutton says it's not just how much you say, but how varied the words are.

"Standard words - sit down, be quiet, eat your breakfast - that doesn't extend a child's knowledge. Give them words for things the children don't know, that's the kind of language that builds babies' brains," she said.

Whether singing, reading or interacting - it's all crucial to getting children off to a better start.