Small Talk lays foundation for language development

ALTOONA, IA (Sept 1, 2023) – School is underway for many of Iowa’s children, and Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and Outreach in Polk County will make sure that the youngest residents in Polk County get an opportunity to learn, too. Small Talk is a free virtual program for parents with infants or toddlers and teaches techniques to improve early language development. This ten-week series will be held on Thursdays starting September 28 from 8:00-9:00 p.m. Participants will receive a free board book each week, however registration is required by September 21. 

“Research shows that babies respond to our voice and conversations right from birth. The Small Talk program helps parents and caregivers understand the importance of incorporating talk to their baby from the outset,” Cassie Odland, family wellbeing and nutrition educator for ISU Extension in Polk County said. “Thanks to a grant from Early Childhood Iowa we are excited to, again, offer this popular program to Polk County residents,”

The ten-week virtual series uses technology and evidence-based curriculum to help reduce the "word gap" in infants and toddlers. During Small Talk sessions, parents and caregivers learn the importance of interactive talk and how to increase this type of conversation with very young children.  Participants will use patented “talk pedometer” technology to measure their child's language environment. Families then receive personalized, actionable feedback reports based on this technology, explore the data, and discuss strategies to increase the quality and quantity of talk at home. 

“By the end of the program we hope that parents are equipped with fun and practical tools and techniques so they can continue to lay the foundation of learning and literacy with their child,” Odland said.

For more information about Small Talk call or text Odland at (515) 414-9865 or e-mail her at