Earlier this week, a video of a child having a gibberish conversation with his father went viral. In the video, father and son lie on the couch and watch TV. As they watch, the child starts pointing at the screen and speaking in gibberish. A dad responds to his child as if he were chatting with a close friend. And although we can only understand the dad, to the whole world it looks like the couple is having a real conversation. It is very cute.
But this video is also a really great example of good parenting: there is a very good chance that the child will grow up to be a great conversationalist. From a developmental psychology point of view, what we are seeing in the video is a child who is actively developing the ability to speak and language. A child’s ability to speak does not just happen. Children acquire the ability for language by listening to and interacting with their parents.
Language acquisition often begins when parents and children experience the world side by side. When parents share their child’s gaze by looking at the same object, picture, or event and naming what they see, children begin to associate the word with the image. But the development of vocabulary is not the development of communication. After all, communication is cooperative. Modeling the cooperative nature of communication is critical.