Having Actual Conversations With Toddlers Boosts Their IQ

by Jerriann Sullivan
Originally Published: 
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Talking with toddlers linked to higher IQ scores

Talking with toddlers can improve their IQ and their language skills, according to a new study published this month. But parents should note that the research shows having conversations with toddlers — not just speaking to them — is what helps improve their cognitive abilities.

The study, published in Pediatrics, the journal for the American Academy of Pediatrics, shows that toddlers who took more turns speaking when having conversations with an adult scored an average of 14 to 27 percent higher on IQ tests, verbal comprehension, and receptive and expressive vocabulary. So even though toddlers might not be using real words just yet, parents should still keep the conversation flowing. “Parents need to be aware of the importance of interacting with children who are very young and not necessarily even talking,” Jill Gilkerson, the study’s lead author, told the Evening Standard. “The more interaction, the better,” she added.

Gilkerson and her team of researchers studied kids aged 18 months to 2-years-old for six months. They recorded adults speaking to the kids and the conversations adults had with kids. Years later they brought back the kids when they were 9-to-14-years-old to test their IQs and language skills.

Researchers wrote that the study showed “early talk and interaction, particularly during the relatively narrow developmental window of 18 to 24 months of age, can be used to predict school-age language and cognitive outcomes.” Gilkerson added, “A lot of specific developmental changes occur at this time. They’re adding a lot of vocabulary and putting words together to form sentences.” Researchers said it’s crucial that families incorporate a language learning environment at home.

Pediatricians Dr. Alan Mendelsohn and Dr. Perri Klass were not involved in the study, but said that the research would result in “critically important outcomes.” They added: “By showing that parent-child verbal interactions in early childhood predict critically important outcomes… the authors of this study have made a major contribution to this topic.”

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