Two-year-old Abner laughs while being carried by his father, James Choc, in San Felipe Village in Belize, August 2016. Photo: UNICEF

Two-year-old Abner laughs while being carried by his father, James Choc, in San Felipe Village in Belize, August 2016. Photo: UNICEF

A new, free, interactive online tool to encourage fathers to talk more to their babies – and learn the most effective methods in doing so – was launched Thursday.

The Baby Talk for Dads online tool – developed by UNICEF and H&M Foundation, in collaboration with Dr. Marina Kalashnikova – forms part of the organizations’ commitment to supporting healthy brain development in babies and young children.

The first of its kind product – available on computers and mobile devices – takes fathers on a journey whereby they can learn and practice the most effective tone and pitch for when talking with their babies.

Baby Talk for Dads also provides an easy-to-digest, scientific-based overview on how talking to babies in melodic, exaggerated sounds stimulates learning and development.

During early childhood, the human brain develops faster than at any other period, creating new neural connections at optimal speed. These connections form through interactions between genes and a baby’s environment and experiences, and create the architecture of a child’s brain – which all present and future learning, behavior and health depend on.

“Healthy brain development during the early years of life is reliant upon responsive interactions and stimulating experiences, along with good nutrition and protection – and it is parents who hold the biggest stake in providing this environment,” said UNICEF Chief of Early Childhood Development Dr. Pia Britto. “We hope that this innovative tool helps inspire fathers and all caregivers to talk more with their babies.”

Evidence suggests that when babies hear slow, melodic, and exaggerated sounds it helps them develop fast cognitively and learn new words more efficiently. Some studies have revealed that when babies are spoken to in high-pitched baby talk from their caregivers they can speak earlier and have a larger vocabulary than babies who have not been interacted with in the same way.

Two-way conversations with babies, using eye contact, mirroring expressions and responding to cues are equally as important to vocal sounds in supporting healthy brain development in babies.

Baby Talk for Dads consists of three playful voice exercises caregivers can do with or without their child. Each exercise was developed using the expertise of researcher Dr. Marina Kalashnikova from the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language.


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