“Talk to your baby.” “Respond to your infant’s cues.”

We get this advice all the time, but what does it actually mean? Babies benefit when we expose them to lots of language, but it’s not merely a question of word count. What really seems to matter is the personal connection--being involved in the give-and-take of a genuine conversation. Here is a guide to the best kind of “baby talk”: Evidence-based tips for helping babies reach their full potential.

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Young children learn language at an incredible pace. The brain networks underlying many language skills are already in place when a baby is born, and a considerable amount of language learning takes place in the first year of life. Even before a baby can talk, the areas of her brain related to language are developing rapidly and absorbing new information.

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Just as parents are children’s first teachers, they are also their children’s first playmates. And both roles are inextricably connected because learning lies at the center of them both. Too many parents think of high-tech video games, television, computers, and recreational programs when they think of play. But what’s really important to children is that their own parents and caregivers spend time with them in unstructured play that allows children to create their own activities.

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Spring is finally here, and warm weather brings with it more opportunities for children to get outside and play. This is wonderful, because it is through play that children learn about the world and themselves. Child-led free play allows kids to flex their imaginations, try out different roles in the world, and explore what interests them. Here are 5 suggestions for your next trip to the library or bookstore. Chances are, these books will make children hop to their feet and get moving. (In fact, they're perfect for children who have a hard time sitting through a story!)

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One of the best things about kids is their sense of fun and adventure. Whether it’s playing pretend, drawing, or freeze tag, they are enthusiastic participants. And while all this playing may seem like just fun and games, research shows it is actually at the core of child development.

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