Positive Parenting Tips: How to Support Your Baby’s Brain Development with “WORDS”

Nicki Boyd, Co-Founder, Starling of VersaMe

Why are some babies early talkers? And what does this really imply? Today, we are here with Nicki Boyd. She will talk about the answers to these questions and tell us the one secret determining factor to your baby’s future success. Nicki is a co-founder of a company born out of Stanford University called VersaMe, an educational app that helps with your baby’s learning development.

Full Interview Transcript

Kelly Thomas: Nikki thank you so much for being here

Nikki Boyd: Cool.

Kelly Thomas: So tell us what is the one thing that is critical to your baby’s future success.

Nikki Boyd: Words! In a word excuse the pun and that’s obviously a crude summary. But 30 years of research out have Stanford and other universities from people far smarter than me have find this incredibly strong correlation between the quantity of words a baby or a young child hears and the brain development that happens and that determines then that later success in life across a range of measures.

Kelly Thomas: Can you talk about the research specifically around it. Like why the first 1000 days? Why is it so crucial?

Nikki Boyd: So, 80 to 90 percent of brain development happens in the first four years of life. So, if you think about that before the child even enters school as we stop traditionally thinking about education and the importance of education, you know so much of the brain development, the brain growth has already happened and that the key determinant input for that brain growth is words and that is oversimplifying it. So, it’s not just words, it’s the language environment, it’s the interaction that comes with those words. So, it’s the eye contact, it’s the tactile, the other sensory stimulation but if we have to boil it down to one thing to measure and encourage it really is about words that’s most important.

Kelly Thomas: Don’t all moms know that you should talk to your baby?

Nikki Boyd: It’s a good question. I think that intuitively people do realize that language is important. I think a few things one they didn’t often realize how importance it is — they didn’t realize how important it is to start early in a world of distracting smartphones. And I speak as a victim of this addiction myself. It’s very easy to get distracted and forget how important it is to be talking to your baby, to be mindful to be present. So the kind of feedback we get from our customers on things like well this is great. It gets my husband to talk and realize how important it is he didn’t talk before or it makes me realize how much time I was spending on my phone and focus me only on the most important thing rather than being distracted by you know opening the bills all the other things I do when I get home.

Kelly Thomas: Right, right.

Nikki Boyd: So I think that it’s not the thing which is going to enable your baby to survive. But I think it’s an important factor and it’s a valuable addition to best practice parenting and really optimizing the potential of your child in the early years.

Kelly Thomas: It’s just the vocabulary that benefited are another benefit that you get from just talking more to your baby?

Nikki Boyd: So the way they measure success, because that’s a very broad term, is not just IQ but it’s across a range of measures. So, delayed gratification that’s a popular term these days, the ability to finish school, the ability to achieve well. But it’s not just about getting the best IQ, I think it’s the optimizing potential rather than being the smartest in the room. So, it’s about optimizing what you’ve been given. But if you think about it, if the child lean very simply if a child enters school and they haven’t had been exposed to much vocabulary and they can’t communicate. You can see how a behavior pattern of misbehaving might start to happen.

Nikki Boyd: This is how this research originally started. It kept on being this you too can trace it back and back and back to the earlier years. You know where is the failing in the system, there is you know causing children to misbehave or go off the rails and that’s what it comes back to. So, if we can give them a great foundation of language of communication of stability then it sets them off on a on a good grounding for kindergarten and then beyond.

Kelly Thomas: Does it matter when you talk to them? Or what do you say about the frequency and context?

Nikki Boyd: If I go back to research, there is a maximum rate of speech. So, a maximum number of words per minute that a baby’s brain can digest actually and most of us speak too fast and I’m a classic example of that. Particularly, when we’re reading so most of us should think about when we’re reading slowing down and when we’re speaking to babies young children slowing down. So, I would never be wanting to encourage mommy’s got home from work just to be rushing to get words in you know the quality of that engagement is important as well.

Nikki Boyd: I think is about making the most of the time you’ve got available with your child. I’m sure there’s been plenty of stimulating time in that day care setting as well with the other children or the carers in that setting.

Kelly Thomas: I’ve heard stories about kids that come from multicultural backgrounds where the parents speak different languages, they ultimately have a speech delay. How does that play into the role of speaking different languages do you think it helps or hinders a child’s development?

Nikki Boyd: So I’m a massive fan and proponent of speaking multiple languages even if it causes some delay in the verbalization. What is that’s not to be confused with is a delay or problem in the child’s brain development. So the child is bit like with baby sign language. And why that’s a really helpful tool is it’s enable a child to communicate before they can verbalize (right) and make signs with their voice. And so with multiple languages just because they can yet make the signs with their voice. The input of that language is going in. And in fact if you if you do multiple language if you give your child multiple languages you are developing a different area; a pretty different area of the brain and giving them a foundation to learn additional languages more easily thereafter.

Kelly Thomas: Do you take into consideration different kinds of personalities even at that young age?

Nikki Boyd: When you’re changing a diaper perhaps you could narrate a story and we hear this from lots of our mums is that dad’s always changing the diapers in silence and actually you’re at this ideal range – they are 18 inches from your child you’ve got a tactile sensation going on as well. It’s actually an ideal interactive moment and just think how much change time you spending changing diapers in the life of your child in those first few years. Another one would be when you’re preparing food narrating you know what the food items are. You might you can even bring in colors, you can bring in shapes and then one of the ones we love to encourage is story time and books and a love of books and I mentioned earlier by slowing down. we also encourage introducing questions so, not rushing through the book but how about pointing a picture. How about encouraging some imagination and so hopefully with like encouraging of tapping into a variety of times you can interact and use language more. There’ll be something which works for your individual child in that.

Kelly Thomas: Is there anything else about that word count that we haven’t covered that you think is important for a mom or caregiver.

Nikki Boyd: As the child ages, it’s more important to add diversity of language. (okay!) It’s more important to add complexity so longer words. It’s also more important to and actually this is some language we would encourage you know right from the beginning even before they can speak is what’s called conversational terms. So, how much of the back and forth so not just one way from me to you how much am I saying something you’re saying back and back and even before they can verbalize you know it might be a babble, it might be a noise, it might be a hand movement. Which is you know, nonverbal but it’s still an important engagement and then the length of the conversation.

Kelly Thomas: Is not just quantity it’s quality like what you’re saying and how you’re saying?

Nikki Boyd: Yeah.

Kelly Thomas: So for more information about you were people go?

Nikki Boyd: Absolutely say a website is www.versame that’s versame.com. And there’s lots to read there, research articles and fun stories from other parents. So yeah.

Kelly Thomas: Thank you so much for being here.

Nikki Boyd: Absolutely!

Kelly Thomas: Pleasure to learn more about what you’re doing and how I think it’s important to get more parents talking more to their babies being often than no.

Nikki Boyd: Absolutely.



Nicki Boyd interview about Child’s Future
About Nicki Boyd

Nicki Boyd, Co-Founder, Starling by VersaMe, a smart little device that tracks the number of words your child says and hears each day to help foster your child's early vocabulary development. For more information, visit www.VersaMe.com.

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