Scéalta – The Early Childhood Ireland Blog

< Back to Blog

It’s good to talk!


Tuesday 12 September 2017

Talking is an essential human skill in order to communicate our wants, needs, hopes, dreams and to make social connections with others. While infants can make their needs known it takes some time for children to achieve adult like language and communication abilities. The ability to talk is primarily developed through infants being spoken to directly from birth and through exposure to others chatting. This includes overheard conversations such as in the family home, a child care setting, the supermarket or park.

Most infants have plenty of opportunities to overhear conversations between adults or other children. This exposure is important for many aspects of language development such as learning the sounds and meanings of words and the rules of grammar. Although these lessons children learn about language are not taught explicitly by adults they are in contact with, infants take in a huge amount of information through mere exposure. However, it’s important that infants are regularly spoken to directly as well.


At a young age babies obviously can’t talk back and probably don’t understand much of what is being said but are still communicating with us in non-verbal ways. It seems that chatting to infants encourages both language development and other aspects of cognitive development. Some research published in the last few years looked at how often mothers speak to their infants while going about other household activities such as chores. The infants were 9 months old at the time as part of the national study Growing Up in Ireland. The results showed that  65.9% of caregivers reported ‘always’ talking to their infant, 24% ‘often’ do this, and 10.1% talk to their infants ‘sometimes, rarely or never’.

As you might expect, infants that were spoken to more often had higher communication scores than those that were spoked to less frequently. Interestingly though,  this language based activity had a significant positive effect on infants problem solving abilities too, highlighting the importance of chatting to babies, even though they don’t necessarily understand exactly what is being said and can’t talk back. This finding held even after taking account of other factors that might impact on cognitive development such as the education level of the mother or the socio-economic status of the family.

Even though this research was conducted with the infants’ mothers in their homes the implications of the findings can potentially be put into practice in childcare settings too. Many children in Ireland spend much of their day being cared for by an early childhood practitioner. During this time they are learning from everything going on around them in addition to particular learning, education or play activities. All of the conversations they hear involving their early childhood practitioners or parents contributes hugely to their language development. This exposure to adult conversations is important and so too are conversations that involve the baby where they are directly addressed and spoken to, whether it’s during playtime, feeding or nappy changing.

Talking, at any age, also supports positive relationships and has an impact on health and well-being. So, the Aistear themes of communicating and well-being are really linked together for children and for adults too with talking in a positive way being key. The good news is that talking is free, it doesn’t require new equipment or extra resources but the conversations that you have count right from infancy - so keep talking!

Link to video:



Dr. Suzanne Egan is a researcher and Lecturer in Psychology in Mary Immaculate College, Limerick. Her main research interests lie in the area of social cognition and cognitive development. She has a particular interest in the processes involved in imagination, thinking and reasoning and in supporting cognitive development in young children.

0 comments Comments

Leave a Reply

Please Log In to comment:

Visitors(1) Academic Skills(1) Adoption(1) Upcycling(1) Anxiety(2) Shapes(1) Snakes(1) Creative(1) Learning Stories Award(3) learning bias(1) communication(4) E.coli(1) Music(3) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) Appreciation(1) Self-Esteem(1) Wesco(1) COVID-19(4) code of professional responsibility(1) keep in touch(1) Awards 2019(1) Role play(1) NAEYC(1) Early Years(1) mushrooms(1) Laugh(1) Easter(1) Confidence(1) curriculum(5) Social Skills(1) Flowers(1) Impact(1) Gardening(1) Book Review(1) Self Help Skills(1) Wonder(1) Identity and Belonging(4) babies(7) Time(2) food(1) EM Standing(1) Snacks(1) Visual Impairment(1) Child Care(1) play(34) research submissions(1) risky play(2) Playschool(1) Children's Voice(1) Painting(1) ECCE(7) animals(2) Health(2) trust(5) Family(1) experience(1) Games(1) Prexit(1) Leargas(1) Names(1) Meal time(1) bloom app(1) Kerry(1) Photographs(1) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) Teamwork(1) outdoor play(6) Little Buddies(1) Mental Health(3) Fee Play(1) Emergent Curriculum(1) learners(1) First 5 strategy(1) Love(2) Scéalta Book Review(1) Deirdre Rogers(1) Support(1) Exercise(1) Graduate(1) preschool(4) Infection Control(1) Storytelling(6) Stress(2) Wrapping paper(1) Pobal sector profile(1) maternity health(1) Reading Time(1) Reggio Emilia(1) Halloween(2) Children and families(1) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) Independence(1) Annual Conference 2019(1) Empathy(1) Learning Journal(2) Japan(1) Growing up Outdoors(1) dining(1) Builders(1) dining experiences(1) Cork(1) NCCA(3) Mud kitchens(1) ears(1) gender stereotype(1) New Appointments(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) Winter(1) Maynooth University(2) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(2) Imagination(3) Quality(4) Síolta(112) Technology(3) annual conference(1) United Nations(1) Smiles(1) Engineers Week(2) GoToMeeting app(1) Early Childhood Care and Education(2) Trade union(1) Digital(1) children development(1) Tuscan Approach(2) toddlers(3) GDPR(1) Maynooth(1) Breathing(2) Socioemotional development(1) Family wall(1) Learning Story Awards(2) Identity(5) respect(5) Workplace well-being(1) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) Lego(2) Fabric(1) Trick or treat(1) story time(2) staying connected(1) Arts(1) Death(2) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) Decision Making(1) pablo(1) Meet the Members(1) play therapy(1) Buddy Bench(1) Exit interview(1) under 3's(3) Annual Conference 2017(2) Belonging(3) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) Research and Professional Learning(1) Change(1) social media(1) Blocks(1) Recycle(1) early learning(1) Traditions(2) Sculptures(1) dublin(2) Aistear(118) Fantasy play(1) planning(1) Research Conference 2019(1) Map(1) interacting(2) Frustrations(1) Study Trip(1) Awards 2018(3) science week(2) early life(1) Mixed age groups(2) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Biting(1) Through the looking glass(1) Online(1) MECPI(1) Well-Being(9) primary education(1) Síolta QAP(1) Magda Gerber(1) Leprechauns(1) MA(1) Interests(1) Laughter(1) risk assessment(1) outdoor space(3) christmas(9) role playing(1) Cork Institute of Technology(1) Sleep(1) Reggio(1) Running(1) grandchild(1) TOY Programme(1) apps for children(1) ICBN(1) Snack Time(1) Educators(2) emotions(2) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) childcare services(1) Treasure Chest(1) Interaction(1) Hand Hygiene(1) youdoodle(1) Awards(2) Home Corner(1) Decisions(1) Event Guide(1) Nutrition(1) Dance(1) environments(1) eating(1) Rituals(1) Funding(1) Norway(2) behavioural science(1) continual professional development(1) Book Club(2) emotional environment(2) HR(1) Siolta blog(8) Trade Unions(1) conversations(1) art of the relationship(1) Department of Education and Skills(1) Eritrea(1) Policy(2) Youtube Series(1) Sustainability(3) bonds(1) blog(29) Arithmetic(1) IGL(1) Celebrate(1) Shoes(1) Orla Kenny(1) Exclusion(1) DES Inspection(1) Light table(1) Liz Kerrins(1) Glitter(2) value(1) Relaxation(1) The Jelly King(1) awards 2020(1) opportunity(1) Pre-School Services(1) Irish(1) Potential(1) Maths Week(1) Employee(1) Mount Everest(1) preschool settings(1) Body Language(1) Awards Night(1) play stories(2) documentation(4) man up(1) Buddies(1) Craft(1) AIM(2) Culture(2) Horizon 2020(1) Mathematicians(1) Seas Suas(1) Penguins(1) Leaders in Practice(1) Christmas Creativity(2) Inspirational(2) Mealtimes(1) Touch(1) Participation(2) Vietnam(1) Supernanny(1) Line-ups(1) Albert Einstein(1) Weather(1) overhear(1) Inter-generational learning(2) Dr. Emer Ring(1) CPD(1) memories(1) worries(1) Arlene Forster(1) Kids Own(1) Mayo(1) baby room(1) UNCRC(2) Reggio Children Network(1) UD(1) Child mental health(1) Motor neuron disease(1) Graduation(1) Magnavacchi(1) Bereavement(2) early years learning(1) Inclusion(3) Art(6) Wilenski(1) Ceremony(1) Mantra(1) collaboration(1) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) Trigonometry(1) ECEC(2) Self-regulation(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) feisty(1) Routines(2) science(3) Together Old and Young Programme(1) movement behaviours(1) Jillian van Turnhout(1) Budget 2018(1) Aistear Siolta in Action(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) Afghanistan(1) Scents(1) developing motor skills(1) AsIAm(2) Childcare(3) Twitter(1) Vertical grouping(1) Advocacy(1) College(1) Iceland(1) transitions(10) Iraq(1) Mo Scéal(1) PIP(1) structure(1) Human Resources(1) Oireachtas(1) Grief(1) Party(1) Performing(1) keezy(1) National Holiday(1) Montessori(3) Administrative Burden(1) Engineering Ireland(1) Syria(1) Thinking(1) National Early Childhood Research Conference(1) Document Learning(1) School Age Childcare(1) Design(1) Pen green(1) Children's Research Network(1) outdoors(3) Environment(2) Wendy Lee(3) Certificate(1) Nonverbal(1) Our Little Seed(1) Pobal(1) Exploring(1) Research Seminar(1) Frosty the Snowman(1) Inter-generational(2) Building Resilience(1) Story(1) CIT(1) Professionalisation(5) Workforce(1) early years research(2) Nuturing interactions(1) refugees(1) Yoga(1) education(2) Challenges(1) Valentine's Day(3) Celebrations(4) Super Shed Stories(2) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) ERASMUS+(3) Early Learning and Care(1) life long learning(1) Sustainable(1) Summer(1) journey(1) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) purpose(1) Educator of the Year Award(3) Masterclass(2) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) Drawing(2) First 5(1) Early Childhood Ireland(1) Budget 2020(1) Intention(1) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) Gratitude(1) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(2) National Pyjama Day(1) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) Kilkenny(1) Covid pandemic(1) Maternity Leave(1) Scéalta Blog(99) Rich Documentation(1) Spiders(1) Santa(2) RTE Investigates(1) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) Communications(1) Patterns(1) Treasure(1) ReCreate(2) Community involvement(1) Engineering(3) Interactions(2) Magic(1) Communicating(1) child-centred approach(1) Giraffe(2) SPICE Framework(1) Queues(1) Leadership(1) National Childcare Scheme(1) Traffic Lights(1) Universal Design(2) Degree(1) Affordability(1) Time Out(1) DCYA(4) budget(1) gender bias(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(2) risk(2) University(1) friendships(1) National Awards 2018(2) First 5 transitions for children award(1) Early Years Educators(3) Qualifications(1) social science(1) supportive environments(2) Plastic(1) Academics(1) Ariana Pucci(1) scéalta(32) curiosity(3) Inspired Practice Awards(1) National Awards 2019(1) RIE philosphy(1) reading(5) Sweets(1) Childhood(1) Children(4) Maria Montessori(1) Sociodramatic play(1) phone apps(1) Jenga(1) TRAP(1) routine(2) parents(6) EECERA 2016(1) Competent(1) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) Plants(1) Xbox(1) Sequins(1) Diversity(1) Special Needs Assistants(1) meals(3) listen(1) San Miniato(4) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) Thanks(1) Facebook(1) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) iOS(1) Digital Devices(1) Feeding(1) family time(1) UN(1) aistear blog(3) Growing up in Ireland(3) Mark Twain(1) Cognitive development(1) stories(3) Care-giving routines(1) Elders(1) Behaviour(3) community(5) STEM(3) show and tell(1) Rising to the Challenge(2) listening(1) healthy eating policies(1) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) Maths(5) Investment(2) linc(1) educating(1) Infectious diseases(1) Inspections(1) Exploring and Thinking(1) INTO(1) Window(1) CCTV(1) European Project(1) Sport(1) Positivity(1) Learning Stories(9) Sessional service(1) Italy(1) Primary School(2) St. Patrick's Day(1) Covid19 crisis(1) learning(19) Whole Group(1) Confident(1) ECEC Setting(2) Mindfulness(2) Titles(1) Training(2) Valerie Gaynor(1) Staff Motivation(1) books(4) Settling in(4) Children's Rights(3) relationships(17) Loss(1) pets(1) Favouritism(1) Maths Week Ireland(1) Workplace Relations(3) early childhood educator(2) Care routines(1) educarer(1) Limerick(1) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) Reflective Practice(1) code of ethics(1) Playdough(1) dogs(1) Learning journals(1) Autism(4) Budget 2019(2) research(6) Consent(1) Margy Whalley(1) Inspired Practice Award(5) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) The Lullaby Book(1) General Data Protection Regulation(1) Creativity(4) Recycling(2) Capable(1) development(8) conference(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) Obesity(1) Thank you(1) Brain(1) Engagement(1) Performance Management(1) Learning Story(1) Malaguzzi(1) imotion(1) Opportunities(1)


Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine