Talking with young children: How Parents can Encourage Learning

During the first five years of a child’s life 90% of brain development takes place. There’s no way to go back after a child enters school and recapture what they have missed during the first five years. So what does this mean for parents and learning? Parents have a perfect opportunity to be the first and best teacher in a child’s life. They can have a profound impact that will make a difference for a lifetime. Here are a few facts!

1) Thought–provoking questions or using new words can extend children’s thinking and curiosity.

2) When adults purposefully talk more with children, children develop larger vocabularies (Hart & Risley,1999, Hoff & Naigles, 2002).

3) Children with larger vocabularies are better readers and better readers are more successful throughout school and life (Snow,Burns & Griffin 1998).

All families talk to children, but the way you talk to them or with them is what makes the difference. If you’re just talking at children to get things done, such as, eating, getting dressed, cleaning up etc. then you are missing an opportunity to get the vocabulary growth, cognitive development and emotional maturity that is necessary for future success.

Here are a few things parents can do that make a significant difference:

1) When driving in a car with children, turn off your radio and put down the cell phone….. Engage your children in conversation regarding the world around them, i.e. How many red cars can we find in the next few minutes? Can you find the number six on the license plate? Who can find the letter “S” on a license plate?
This is fun and can make a world of difference.

2) Use “Big Words” and extend a child’s vocabulary: Instead of saying: “going to the park can be fun” say… “Going to the part can be enjoyable, entertaining or pleasant. Instead of saying: “that is a scary mask your brother is wearing”…. That is a creepy, horrifying, shocking or intimidating mask your brother is wearing.
These are easy to do and make a significant difference. Remember you are the first and most important teacher in a child’s life…. Make a difference for them!

Bill Habermehl