Do you ever get frustrated trying to hear a voice in a noisy restaurant or a crowded party? Babies have more difficulty distinguishing foreground sounds (such as calling his name), and background noise (TV, radio, or loud voices), than do adults and need a greater difference between the two in order to focus on the foreground sounds. A quiet setting allows them to hear language clearly, which stimulates the brain pathways for developing language. Providing a quiet environment for play during the first year can actually allow those discriminating skills to develop more easily.

When it’s time to play, turn off the TV, radio, electronic toys and music. Music is a wonderful listening experience for babies, but enjoy a separate music time where you focus on the songs, bang to the beat and sing along. Check with day care providers to make sure they have a quiet time or place for language exchange. Voices can be distracting background noise, too. A popular question from moms is, “When my husband comes home and he relaxes by watching TV, is that bad for my baby?” Obviously, parents are better parents when they have time to relax. Be aware that your baby is only awake and available for play for a short time, so it is wise to turn down the noise during your precious minutes of play.

In a quiet environment, very young babies are capable of hearing tiny differences between sounds. A researcher at Brown University showed that one-month-old babies could hear the difference between a “p” and “b” sound, which are very close acoustically. If you provide an environment with a quiet background, these discriminative abilities have a better chance to operate.