Our Talk, Read, Sing campaign is in full swing! We want parents to know that it’s not just about the number of words your children are exposed to each day, but it’s just as important to have meaningful, engaging conversations with your children. Research has shown that genuine and meaningful conversations help young children develop larger vocabularies and strengthen parent-child relationships—strong predictors for a child’s ability to succeed in school.
From the moment they are born, you can encourage your child’s attempt to communicate (cries, gestures, coos, babbles) by giving words to what they are expressing. Talk through your daily routines and activities and as their language develops, ask open-ended questions that encourage them to use their critical thinking skills and respond using more than one-word responses.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when talking to your children:
- Give them your full attention. Show your children you are interested in their conversations by making eye contact and using responsive facial expressions.
- Praise your child’s response or comments by providing specific praise or meaningful feedback. For example, instead of “good job” say “You are a great helper.”
- Be patient and give your children a few extra seconds to respond. Allow your children to fully answer a question without interruption.
- Practice back-and-forth conversation by asking more questions and letting your child answer.
- Use playful language such as songs, rhyming games, and novel sounds.
So the next time you are at the grocery store, the playground, or driving in the car, take the opportunity to engage your children in the experience by finding opportunities to initiate conversation about what they see. “What is your favorite fruit? Tell me why it is your favorite.” “What color is the sand?” “We are at a stop light. What color does red, yellow, and green mean?” When mealtime comes, sit with your children and ask questions about the meal, their day, and emotions. “Are the tomatoes sweet?” “Who did you play with today?” Bath time is a great place to have fun and silly conversations. “I’m going to put bubbles on your head.” At bedtime, have your children select a book you’ll read together, “Let’s pick out a book we can read together.” While reading the story, ask them questions to predict what they think will happen, “Who do you think will win the race?”
Rich experiences such as these set the foundation for your child’s language and critical thinking skills essential to their success in school and life.