We need to talk
Okay Siri, answer me this. If you’re the only person I’m talking to every day, who’s talking to the children? It’s a worry isn’t it? While our smart phones are making communication as easy as a click or a swipe, we’re losing the art of conversation. So does that mean our children are going to be part of a silent generation? And how will that affect their brain development in those first five years? It’s a scary thought isn’t it?
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some easy ways to get them talking and work some real facetime into your day.
Bust a tune
Conversation can be a bit one-sided when your kids are really little. But even if they can’t always answer your questions, they still want to hear your voice. One of the best things you can do is sing. Recent research indicates that singing nursery rhymes with young children in a fun and interactive way can contribute to later literacy development. You don’t have to croon like Bublé to charm your child. Just sing some of your favourite nursery rhymes. And if you forget the words, don’t worry, just make up some lyrics of your own. In fact, getting the words wrong on purpose can be a fun way to get your child involved. As they get older they’ll love pointing out where you made mistakes.
Create great choices with words
Nouns or naming words are the building blocks of language and the more we involve our children in our everyday activities, the more often they hear words they can understand, and then use. Children like to name things and if they don’t know what something’s called, make sure you tell them what it is, and not just once! Repetition is one of the most important strategies for young children to learn new words, so why not use activities that we already repeat each day as learning opportunities for your child?
Offer choices: “Should we put on the shorts or t-shirt first?”, “Do you want your water bottle or some milk?” and show your child the items you are talking about so they can learn what the words mean and then decide. Make a game out of naming items at the supermarket. There are so many types of food with interesting names that you can show your child. If there are choices to be made, involve your child and then you can name the chosen items again as they go into the trolley at the shops, and then into the pantry at home. The more words they know, the easier it is for them to tell you what they like, and how they feel.
Open a book
The great news is that we now have data that shows that when you share a book with your child this has a greater impact on children’s oral language skills than the traditional method of reading to them word for word. Every time you share a book with your child, you’re helping their brain to make connections, like turning on lights in their head! So, rather than just reading a book; have a conversation about the book, talk about the pictures, ask questions, make comments and help your child to understand the meaning of the story by slowing down and discussing what is of interest to your child. It helps if you can also see your child’s face while you share the book, and then you know what they’re looking at, and they can see you forming the words.
Some children jump at the opportunity to grab a book, hop on the couch and immerse themselves in the story. Other children seem to be natural born wrigglers. If yours is a wriggler, don’t force your child to sit still. Just try a couple of pages at a time, or a different time of day, maybe after bath time or just before a nap. Eventually you’ll both get to enjoy this time together. Don’t forget, have a go at a variety of booming, squeaky or silly voices as you read. Kids love to hear the different characters come to life.
The best way for your child to learn is through talking with you. So don’t lock those thoughts in your head. Talk with your child about the weather, talk about breakfast and, most importantly, give your child a chance to respond. Some children can take up to 10 seconds to do this as they’re thinking and processing, so make sure you wait for them to join you! It doesn’t matter how boring it might seem to you. For your child, it can be fascinating and stimulating and provides a great foundation for their future. So even before your child can walk the walk, make sure you talk the talk.