Yes, the richness of language matters and the number of words counts, but the more educated and more middle class the parents are, the more complicated it gets. When do we speak with our children and how? Why and how this matters is key, and in today’s world of blabber, not obvious. To the contrary, it can be downright confounding. It has to do with the urgency and importance of the child’s cycles of activity.

Right up there in importance with the number of hours of sleep a child gets is the number and quality of uninterrupted cycles of activity he brings to completion each day. These cycles of activity serve many of the same functions in the child’s living and learning as sleep. If the number of words and the quality of initiations and responses the parent offers are ill-timed or endless – or, worse yet, both – they can prove more harmful than helpful to the child’s development not to mention the parent-child relationship.

Not only will the child’s cycles of activity suffer a reduction in number and quality, but much of that rich profusion of language will fester between parent and child rather than feeding the child’s development. To get the full impact, consider the ramifications of a parent interrupting a child’s sleep throughout the night in order to fill his life with rich language. That tells all.

The obvious questions are,

What are cycles of activity?

How do we provide them for the child?

How do we recognize them?

And what can we do to support them?

For answers to these questions, see my blog on Cycle of Activity.

But first, see this video from The Economist and consider the power of language on the infant’s developing brain.