You know that chatting it up with your baby -- whether you're reading her your grocery list or huffing about the presidential election -- is crucial to her speech development. But now New York University researchers have found that listening to your voice lays the groundwork for your infant to understand nonspeech, such as music and animal sounds.
"We found that only after babies were exposed to a particular sequence of human speech were they able to recognize that same sequence in animal sounds and in music," says lead researcher Gary F. Marcus, Ph.D. For example, after hearing the syllables "le, di, di" repeated to exemplify the pattern of A-B-B, babies could listen longer to a sequence of animal sounds that followed the same rule, like "moo, oink, oink." While signing up for a Mommy & Me music class or visiting a farm are great ways to jump-start baby talk and expose her to new sounds and rhythms, anything you get excited about will perk up your baby's eyes and ears.
In the meantime, keep describing the world around you and telling her stories from your day. "Because babies learn language automatically when they hear it, there's no need to do anything more specific than just talking to her," says Marcus. Before you know it, she'll be giving you an earful right back!