Tools For Learning

Inspiration for Parents & Educators

Quality Conversations with Kids

on October 27, 2014

imageListening to the quality conversations of my preschool granddaughter with her mom and dad amazes me with her use of big words in correct context. It started me wondering about quality vs quantity of words in young kids conversations with peers and adults. So I did a little research.

What I found out is a growing body of research conducted by Dr. Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek, a professor of psychology at Temple University suggests that the quality conversations with kids and their parents is of much greater importance than the number of words a child hears. It’s all about having fluid quality conversations with kids around shared rituals and objects, like pretending to have a tea party, or using a play telephone to have conversation with dad at work. Dr. Hirsh-Pasek says that this is the stuff from which great language is made.

In a previous University of Kansas study found that in quality conversations with kids, parental tone, responsiveness, and use of symbols affected a child’s I.Q. and vocabulary. So what can you do as a busy parent daily with your kids to further the quality of language in conversations? The answer is easy and doable: speak in diverse ways: use different verb tenses and elaborate more. Instead of just saying “the man”, try adding adjectives:”the big, tall young man”. These two tips will help your kid’s cognitive development. Breakfast, lunch and/or dinner is a great time to start modeling interactive quality conversations with kids.Include your kids in your family discussions, no matter how young they are. Rephrase sentences using simpler words for your toddlers so they can have an understanding of your discussions. What a powerful thing to do to raise the quality not only of their language but also of their knowledge and their understanding of words.

I always say:”Listen, really listen to your kids and what they have to say. If you don’t listen to the little things they say to you when they’re little, they won’t share the big things when they’re older.” Now, I would like to add to this and say:
“Talk to your kids, really talk to them and include them in your family time quality conversations with kids!” Observe what happens. Their vocabulary and understanding of words will grow and have meaning in their own conversations with you and others. And sometimes their use of words in context with amaze you and sometimes provide you with a good laugh!

A couple of weeks ago when I was babysitting my 3 year old granddaughter, she asked for what she terms a midnight snack before she goes to bed. We had a late dinner that evening so I filled her favorite blue cereal bowl up about only 1/4 full with her most liked cereal. To my surprise she said to me:
“Gigi, you’re ‘killing’me! Please give me more. I’m really, really hungry!” To my amazement, she heard, learned, and understood how to use this unexpected phrase in correct, perfect context. I wonder still where she learned that particular phrase. But what I do know for certain is that she or someone else was engaging in a conversation with someone that was not pleased in anyway, shape, or form, and she learned through that interaction how to use those words appropriately.

A note to the wise parent: Be careful and mindful of the particular words you share in your quality conversations with kids! If you don’t they may come back someday and haunt you! And by the way:”Happy Halloween!”

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