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The Practicals of Talking to Little Children
No matter how much you love being a parent, there’s always a day or two when you wish you had more training in the art of parenting. Let’s take, for example, talking to a baby, toddler or two year old. You may have firm convictions about the importance of talking to little children, but that doesn’t necessarily make you immune to the fact that a child’s lack of communication skills can easily leave any adult at a … ummm … loss for words!
If you’re a Practica Parent, you already have go-to ideas. You can open your Parents Guide for a list of games that are aimed at developing your child’s language skills age-appropriately. But let’s face it – most of them involve talking to your child. Often. And, talking to someone who doesn’t understand much and says even less can easily feel a little weird!
Have you ever wondered what on earth chatterbox parents say to their children? Some people are obviously more extroverted than others, but that doesn’t seem to be the determining factor when it comes to having something worthwhile to say. When you listen closely, you’ll hear that parents who are experts at talking to little children typically start their sentences with certain phrases. What’s more, they love using these intros and they repeat them tirelessly.
Luckily, their children don’t seem to mind the repetitions at all. In fact, the familiarity seems to comfort them and it probably helps them to understand more of what their parents say.
I’ve put together a list of the popular intros that chatterbox parents use. I encourage you to focus on how much more comfortable it is to talk to a child when you start your sentences with these phrases. Not only do they steer your thoughts to what to say next, they also serve to focus your child’s attention on you and what you’re about to say.
Here’s the list of intro’s:
“Look! I see … “ – Chatterbox parents typically use this intro to name something in their immediate environment, after which they then proceed to share a few random facts about that object. For example, “Look! I see a bird. The bird has wings. It lives in that big tree. It says, ‘Tweet-tweet’”.
“Listen! I hear …” – Again, starting a sentence with this intro is simply a way of focusing a child’s attention on something in the environment before you name it and then talk about it.
“Touch this! It’s a …” – This is another example of using a sensory experience as a conversation starter.
“I am …-ing” – Simply announce what you’re doing by inserting an action word. Then use the momentum that you’ve gained to say a few more things. For example, “I am pouring water into your cup. We love drinking water. This water is nice and cold. Here’s some cold water for my thirsty baby!”
“You are …-ing” – The same technique as above; you’re just focusing on what your child is doing instead of what you’re doing.
“Do you know why …?” – The best time to use this intro is while your child is focused on something while it is happening. Then answer the question with: “It’s so that …” For example: “Do you know why I’m putting socks on your feet? It’s so that they will be comfy while they’re inside your shoes”, or “Do you know why you need to use two hands when you carry the bowl? It’s so that the bowl will be steady and you won’t spill your food”.
“I’m pretending that …” – This is a fun intro that’s a sure winner. A game of pretend can turn any situation into a bonding experience because children love playfulness – even when they’re too young to play along. What’s more, they respond enthusiastically when you repeat a sequence because they feel very smart when they discover that they are able to predict what’s going to happen next. Here’s an example: “I’m pretending that this ball of paper is the sun. It’s shining brightly. Let’s cover our eyes! Okay. You can look now. The sun is gone. Where’s the sun now? It’s behind my back. Oh no! It’s coming out again. Let’s cover your eyes … quickly! You can look now. The sun is gone. Where’s the sun now? It’s under my leg. Oh no! It’s coming out again!”
“I see you’ve noticed … What do we know about …?” – Educationalists simply LOVE this kind of talk as it develops a child’s ability to think about his thinking. You’d say something like: “I see you’ve noticed a cat. What do we know about a cat? A cat is furry. Let’s touch the cat’s furry back. A cat says meauw when it’s hungry and it purrs when it’s happy. A cat has four legs. Let’s count the legs. A cat loves to sleep. A cat can climb trees. A cat has sharp claws.”