What else can you do with a very small child? If nothing else appeals, just talk. You’re doing far more good than you might expect.
According to a childhood language study from UNC’s FPG Child Development Institute, the language skills of three year-olds were examined. This study measured their verbal abilities in light of parent education, child care quality and finally, how the parents verbally interacted with them. The surprising finding was the impact of the father’s vocabulary on their language skills; two year-olds with fathers using a wider vocabulary scored significantly higher on tests given when they were three. This impact even outweighed the vocabulary of the mothers, who were found on tape to talk with them more frequently than the dads.
So what does this mean? Even at the earliest ages, talk to your child. Let her hear the rhythm of your speech and tone of your voice, and as she ages, expand the vocabulary. Describe things to her and talk to her about what she’s holding. Read to her – a lot – and even if she can’t yet speak, ask if she can point things out in the book. When she’s started speaking, ask specific and simple questions (what’s floating in the sky?) and then ask more open-ended, general questions as she progresses (what does that cloud remind you of?). Just keep talking and working with her.
But remember, the key to the kingdom is a wider vocabulary. Save the different meanings of “dude” for your buddies.