As parents, we work day in and day out to do what we believe is best for our child. We purchase the latest toys and gadgets, schedule play dates and activities, and limit their screen time. But are we remembering to engage our kiddos in daily conversation, one of the most beneficial activities for language development? We’ve compiled five simple ways to beef up your conversation with your little one today!
1. Respond to nonverbal interactions. Before your child is old enough to start speaking or holding conversations, they are still able to communicate. This is the perfect time to begin having “conversations” with your little one. For every facial expression, sound, gesture, or reach, treat these as your child’s turn in a conversation and respond accordingly. If your little one starts to giggle, laugh in turn and say something along the lines of “I can see you are happy! What’s so funny?” Beginning to share in these types of conversations paves the way for your child’s language development and understanding how to interact with others verbally.
2. Keep the conversation going. When your child shows interest in a topic and makes a comment, or some type of response, respond with a comment of your own adding to the conversation. If your child points to an airplane overhead, respond by saying something like, “That airplane is very high in the sky. Wow, we can still hear the engines!” From here, wait and see if your child responds with their own comment, question, or further gesture.
3. Talk with your child rather than at your child. We find it so easy to speak using more command-like language, such as “pick that up,” “get dressed,” and “finish your homework.” This type of language is referred to as talking at someone. Explaining the reasoning behind the command helps to explain why the task should be done, helping to confirm the task’s importance to your child. Using phrasing like, “Jessica, we want to keep the floor clean so no one trips. I need for you to pick up any items you left on the floor,” addresses who the conversation is with, why the task is important, and what needs to be done. If your child does not respond, engage them with a question, such as, “Do you agree?” or “Does that make sense?”
4. Take turns conversationally. Teaching your child good conversation habits goes hand-in-hand with teaching other sharing techniques. A one-sided conversation is not generally one you enjoy partaking in, just like you probably don’t enjoy playing a game with someone who doesn’t share any of the toys or pieces. Letting your child finish their turn when speaking, no matter how far-fetched the subject matter may be, lets her know her words hold value.
5. Interact during story time. Reading is very important to your child’s development in so many ways, but the act of reading with your child as opposed to reading to your child makes a big difference. As you are reading a book or interactive story on Footsteps2Brilliance, take the time to stop and discuss with your child what is happening in the illustrations and ask how the different parts or actions of the story make your child feel. Another idea would be to not read the text at all, but come up with you and your child’s own version of the story based on the illustrations.
You are most likely using some or all of these already in your day-to-day life with your child. Conversation is important, but so are meaningful interactions. Quality time combined with quality conversation are a powerhouse team that can be used to help your child’s cognitive and language development.
Looking for more tips on how to help your child’s development? Check out our blog 9 Ways to Have Fun With Your Child After Reading on Footsteps2Brilliance or our blog series Tips to Rock Your Child’s Reading Development.