Studies show a direct link between children’s academic progress in school and home conversations.
To put it simply, children that come from homes where they engage in regular articulate conversation with their parents, tend to do better academically than those who do not.
Of course, it’s not just the home environment because child care centres also have a big part to play in that too – something we all recognise fully at Byford Child Care Centre. However, the home is the most important area and here are some ideas for how you can get your toddler-age children engaging in discussion with you.
Ask them questions
Children typically won’t have developed abstract conversation skills by this age. They may find it difficult to interact in a discussion of the “This is what I’m putting in the soup tonight” style.
Instead, try to ask them questions. Make them social not ‘test’ in style, so “What game are you playing?” rather than “can you count to 5?”.
Use open questions
A closed question is one where the response can be minimal or binary – i.e. just yes or no. An open question is one where your child had to think and respond with sentences. The latter encourages conversation.
Example – use “What are your favourite foods?” rather than “are you having fun?”.
Make discussion fun
Children are smart. They’ll often spot that they’re being prompted and may clam up.
The answer there is to be a little zany. Try questions like “Why don’t we all have cats on our head?” or “I think I’m a tree. What do you think?”.
You may need to be thick-skinned in terms of some of the answers you’ll get!
Seem engaged and interested
A child responding to a question with enthusiasm or just chatting away can be easily crushed if they see their parent isn’t listening because they’re doing something else.
Note, there’s a difference here between chatting while you’re doing a chore and pretending that you’re chatting while using your smart-phone. Many kids can tell and they’ll react accordingly.
Try to look at the child regularly and respond to what they have just said.
Challenge their attention
This is saying something that is deliberately nonsensical and challenging them to spot it.
This can be great fun as a game and it not only stimulates conversation but can also help their speech analysis and wider cognitive abilities.
Try playing the ‘special announcement’ game – with slightly older kids of say 4-5. Take the inside of a kitchen roll and use as a pretend megaphone. Try:
- “this is a special announcement that there are sweeties available” (sensible and real);
- “this special announcement is not a special announcement” or;
- “this special announcement should not be listened to”.
Ask them to tell you where you went wrong on the silly announcements.
Let the discussion influence events
True, not always possible but you can make a discussion more ‘real’ for a child by showing how their input made a difference.
For example, you could ask them to decide who will sit where at dinner and talk to them about various options. Once they have decided, make sure they help you set the table just like they want and sit people accordingly.
It’s not that likely that your child will pick up lots of knowledge that you don’t know but pretend that’s the case.
So, ask them how things went at child care. As they say things such as “we made xyz” make sure you’re amazed and indicate you didn’t know about these things until your child had told you. Remember to ask ‘how’ often to facilitate more input.
Above all, enjoy talking to your toddler. You’ll develop many priceless memories.