I recently read a blog by Janet Lansbury at Elevating Child Care titled Are You Putting the Kibosh on Creativity that reasonated with me, as many of her blogs do, but this one particularily struck me as it relates to my writing and blogging. At the end of each of my books, I am including ideas and activities for parents to use to expand on the concepts in the books to help parents support their child's language and critical thinking development. All along I have worried that these suggestions would be turned into adult led projects that don't actually promote the goals of these activities.
As a parent it is hard to find the balance between talking with a child and sharing new information with that child, and it can easily turn into talking at a child. I have worked with Early Childhood professionals and know that many of them struggle with this area on assessments, such as the Environment Rating Scales (ERS) or the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS). While it seems so simple to let children explore, come up with their own ideas, and create on their own, it can be challenging for parents and teachers alike. Particularily, because we want to teach our kids what we are passionate about or know. Finding the balance is where the challenge comes in, and we often end up erring on the side of adult led (dominated) talk and activities.
Many parents find that learning to let go and allowing your child to just be is one of the hardest lessons of parenthood. It is, also, one of the most essential. So here are some tips to help you find that balance, at least, around language and critical thinking skills.
1) Don't automatically give answers. Let your child draw their own conclusions.
2) Encourage wonder! Start conversations with "I wonder . . . " and "What do you think . . ."
3) Follow their interests in the books you choose and the conversations you have.
1) Talk about everything that you are doing when they are watching you, such as "I see you watching me! I am loading the dishes in the dishwasher so they can get clean" or "You found your ball and are squishing it up. How does it feel? It looks soft."
2) Describe the things you or they are using. "That rock is hard and smooth" or "The water is very hot right now. Let's wait for it to cool off before I put you in the tub."
3) As I mentioned in a previous blog, wait for a response from your baby before you continue talking. Remember even though it sounds like a monologue it is really a conversation!
1) Keep it real! Name things and describe their attributes when your child is using them or asks. You wouldn't just randomly pick up a ball and say blue ball with an adult who spoke a different language, but if you were playing ball with them you might just casually throw in the color. For example, at the grocery store pick up a green and a red apple and ask your child which one they would rather have.
2) Listen to what your toddler has to say even if you don't fully understand it yet. To keep them talking, they need to know you care about what they say!
3) Ask simple open-ended questions that require more than a yes or no.
1) Ask lots of open-ended questions that require a longer answer, such as "Why do you think the moon changes sizes?" or from the title of one of my favorite books, "Where Does the Buttlerfly Go When It Rains?"
2) Keep keeping it real! Again this is not about just randomly asking questions. Keep them related to what you are doing or where your child's interests lay.
3) Continue to introduce vocabulary and talk about everything!
These are just a few suggestions and things to think about when talking and reading with your child. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you aren't here to quiz your child, you are taking advantage of everyday moments to encourage your child to talk, listen, think, and explore. In other words to just have fun!