It's so basic, we take it for granted - the eye contact, the touch, and the sound of a parent's loving voice.

Verbal communication is one of our most powerful tools as parents.

It is vital, I think from the time a baby is in your womb to the time they're born, they're always looking for cues, who's going to take care of me? Who am I going to attach to, who loves me? And communication is how you let them know, said Tilman Smith of King County Childcare Resources.

But babies don't understand, or do they?

It's really helpful to hear the words while you're looking for those cues, so even if you think a baby can't understand you, they are taking it all in with the words and the cues to figure out how language works, said Smith.

You could call it idle chit-chat, but it's so much more. With every word, children build a solid base for literacy, plus cognitive and emotional development. And it helps children learn about their world.?

But good communication doesn't always come automatically. Stress, busy schedules and distractions can get in the way.

Even something as seemingly benign as a baby stroller can curb good communication. Most strollers face forward, but experts say the best ones face backward. Parents talk to their children more as they stroll along.

But what about the much debated use of baby talk? The consensus is a little baby talk is just fine as long as children are exposed to a mix of simple and more complicated language throughout their day.

Children can even learn multiple languages simultaneously, so you don't have to worry about sticking to just one.

In any language you can, even if you can't think of anything to say, keep the conversation going. Your words help children grow and learn.

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