Smart Talk


Smart Talk is having back-and-forth conversations with young children—even before they can use words—to help them develop language and literacy skills. It’s easy to do, and everyday moments like getting dressed, mealtime, baths, diaper changes and bedtime are great opportunities for Smart Talk.

Smart Talk offers tips and information to help parents and caregivers of babies and toddlers (0-3) learn about the power of quality conversation and how to help young children learn and grow.
Resources and Tools En Español


What Is Smart Talk?

Smart Talk is having quality, back-and-forth “conversations” with your child that are loving and responsive and introduce new words.

Talking and responding to your little one with love and attention builds their brain. It’s not about the number of words they hear. What matters most is the quality of the conversation. Babies and toddlers learn from having fluid, back-and-forth interactions: you speak, I respond.

Babies can’t respond with words, but that doesn’t mean they’re not part of the conversation. Eye contact, facial expressions, crying, smiles, and touch are all ways your child communicates with you. They’re all invitations for you to listen and respond in a way that’s relevant and keeps the conversation going.

Even a little bit of conversation throughout the day makes a big difference. It helps your child develop the vocabulary and language skills they’ll need to be good readers and successful in school. Research shows that how well a child reads by the end of third grade often predicts whether they will graduate high school.

Make Smart Talk part of your daily routine, and talk in the language you are most comfortable with. Ask questions, introduce new and unusual words, and use a caring, loving tone.

Here’s how:

describeTalk about what you are doing, where you are, or what you see.
askAsk open-ended questions (who, what, where, when, why)—even if your child can’t respond with words.
respondBe sure to listen and respond to your child. Emphasize the back and forth in everyday activities by reacting to what your child does or says.
readA simple way to introduce new and unusual words and build vocabulary is by telling stories or reading books.
repeatRepeat words and/or echo what your child says and shows interest in.

Watch our videos and interactive tutorials for more Smart Talk tips and information.

Videos Tutorials

Why Smart Talk Matters

From birth to age 3, your child’s brain develops very fast—more than at any other time in life. Smart Talk can help your baby or toddler grow in ways that promote learning and support later reading success.

Smart Talk is for parents and caregivers of young children (ages 0-3) to gain a deeper understanding about the importance of quality, back-and-forth conversations. Smart Talk is designed to help strengthen the skills and confidence of parents and caregivers as they support their child’s learning and development at home.

Research shows that the quality of a child’s experiences in the first few years of life—positive or negative—help shape his or her brain development and ability to learn and succeed in school and in life. Research also tells us that a child’s success in school has a lot to do with the quality and quantity of words spoken to the child in the first three years of life.

So, talking with your child early and often helps his or her ability to learn new words. Knowing a lot of words, or having a strong vocabulary, makes it easier for children to follow instructions, express their feelings when they are frustrated, and develop the ability to read.

Reading by the end of third grade is critical. Research shows that third grade reading level often predicts how well students perform in ninth grade, whether or not they graduate high school, and if they go on to attend college.

Elements of Smart Talk are inspired by the State of Georgia’s language development initiative called Talk With Me Baby. Read On Arizona extends its thanks and appreciation to the State of Georgia for their generosity in sharing materials and learnings.