You have milk in your fridge older than your kid, but even at just a few weeks old they’re already starting to process everything you say. That’s because human brains are hardwired to do so. The same left-hemisphere language centers and brain circuits that start firing away in infants as young as 5 days old are the ones used by adults like you to process your wife telling you to get rid of that milk. So if you really are determined to make them a super successful, multilingual genius, right now is the time to start making those words count.
The fine folks at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association have a handy breakdown of language development activities you can do with your kid from birth to age 6, roughly about the time they’ll want to fix their own bowl of cereal and need to understand the words, “Expiration date.” Here’s a quick sampling.
Birth to 2 Years: It’s all about repeatable vowel sounds like “ma,” “ba,” and “da.” Specifically “da.” Make eye contact, imitate their sounds and expressions, encourage them to imitate yours, read, count, and expand on individual words they’ve figured out how to use. Basically, always be talking.
2 to 4 Years: Use clear, simple speech, repeat what they say to show you understand, expand vocabulary, sing songs, play question-answer games, and use photos to reinforce familiar people and places. You should probably have a few of those on your phone by now.
4 to 6 Years: Give your kid’s rambling, half-coherent stories your full attention, make sure they do the same for you, give directions, form categories, discuss daily activities, and have conversations about your old pal, television.
Right now, all you really need to focus on is priming the language pump that is your baby’s brain by talking and reading, even if they won’t understand the story. Actually, use that to your advantage while you still can. Green Eggs And Ham … And Beer is a way more interesting book.