A team of scientists from Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania is questioning whether the quantity of words matters much at all. A study they published in the journal Psychological Science found that young 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds who engaged in more conversation at home had more brain activity while they were listening to a story and processing language.
“What we found is that the sheer amount of language, the number of adult words, was not related to brain activation or verbal skills,” said Rachel Romeo, lead author of the study and a doctoral student at a joint Harvard and MIT program. “But what was related, strongly related, was the amount of back-and-forth conversation between children and adults. We think this research finding suggests, instead of talking at or to your child, you really need to talk with your child to have meaningful brain development and language development.”
Romeo’s hypothesis is that back-and-forth conversation might actually rewire the brain and cause it to grow. Scientists call this neuroplasticity. All this initial research showed was that kids in the study who experienced more conversation at home had greater brain activity and verbal aptitude.
1. Talk about your day- You went to work or cooked, cleaned, picked up groceries from a shop, drove around, ate a healthy meal, took a nap.
Talk about the daily routine for gardener/cleaner: the key is to be dramatic. Frame it like a story…
Eg: Look at our cleaner, Mrs X has had a long day already! She brushed her teeth, got dressed, eaten her breakfast, done some household cleaning and walked to work here at our home. Look she’s all set to make your room look neat. What do we do every day?
- Talk about school- Look at the work that they’ve done and ask general questions about it which has either yes/no answers or monosyllabic answers. For example, if they’ve done vegetable painting… Ask your child – a. What is this? Did you do this great work? Wow! Do u like this vegetable? Did your teacher help you? Was your partner able to do it? This way you’ll know what the child did at school as well.. they will use words like brush, paint, teacher, star…
- Imagination– Use your imagination to make a character who appears at any hour to help you and something terrible happened to that character… This can be used as a strategy to distract and in most cases helps the child to ask questions. They probe further with questions..That is going to help you guide your child to build vocabulary
- Picture walk– Take a walk in the neighbourhood and talk about what you see, smell, feel…The smell of poop by the cow is making you uneasy, the sight of two dogs fighting is making you scared, the strong winds are making you feel cold wishing you had covered your ears.
- Read to your child– read classics such as Cinderella, Goldilocks with intonation and facial expressions. You will be amazed at how they listen and might even ask you to repeat! Show each page with a short description of the picture.
- Nursery rhymes– you can sing popular nursery rhymes. Sing with them and perform it too. Example- when you happy and you know it, Head shoulders knees and toes. Become the child with your child!
- Animal sounds-Take a couple of animals from your child’s toy box. Ask your child to do the various activities with them;
- Put them in a line
- Feed them their food- the cow wants grass, lion meat, horse- hay, cat-milk, dog- bone
- Make the animal sounds- cow- moo, cat-meow, dog- bark, lion- roar
- Visual aids– Flashcards, whiteboard/blackboard, charts, puzzles
- Puppets– finger puppets- use puppets to make a story.
- Pretend and play– Playing with doctor set, being a chef with the kitchen set, using the cleaning/mop, ironing etc…
- Songs– use songs to teach them their name and a basic hello! (hello, hello what’s your name..? )
We Often have many visual aids with us but can find ways to use them Here are some suggestions to help you do the same:
Flashcards– there are a variety of ways you can use flashcards. From the traditional use of just as flashcards to playing a small game with it. You can turn them upside down and ask the child to turn it back within a time limit; you can cover your face and play peek-a-boo with it. You can hide them in the room and play let’s hunt for it! Even a simple memory game with it can help them remember what’s in there.
Whiteboard and marker-blackboard and chalk– use these basic tools to teach body parts such as eyes, ears, nose, hair, mouth, tongue, hands, legs. You can then draw and show the function for some- hands and legs help us move. Though here, allow the child to draw his face along with the body parts… His interpretation of the same will make you laugh!
Charts- The number ones which help in learning counting, the Velcro theme ones, sea animals etc.. matching the right one to the name of the animal.
Puzzles– You have the interactive puzzles where the child places the correct piece on the map. Example continents, solar system. They learn the map of the country, the planets etc through quiet learning.
A puppet is defined as a movable inanimate object or figure that is controlled by strings, rods, or by placing one’s hand inside its body. There are various types from finger puppets to hand puppets, pop-up puppets to paddle puppets, and marionettes to shadow puppets. The expressiveness and dramatization of puppets have not only entertained people for thousands of years but have been used to educate and inform. Puppets are perfect for grabbing the child’s attention because they are safe, fun, and a natural progression from educational cartoons they likely watch at home. Finger puppets, particularly, are the most effective for children because they have such tiny hands. By putting puppets on their fingers, they are able to transform their fingers into anything they want. When a puppet speaks, children can listen, identify, and understand different words and phrases emphatically performed by their parent who stresses proper enunciation and pronunciation.
Even shy students can speak via the puppet, shifting the attention away from them and onto the puppet.
Toys – We generally end up having animals and fruits, vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables that you have can be taught as it is or used to teach colours and the sense of smell, sight and taste. Eg: Look at the apple! It’s red and this tastes really sweet! The banana is yellow and looks ripe! The tomato is bright red, oh no- this is really sour…. Similar conversations with your child help foster better speech.
You can also use the animals that you have to teach your child to feed the animals.. let’s feed the dog this orange…
Animals– the animals you have can be used to teach sounds (cow- moo, cat- meow etc)
Patterns and colours– the stripes for a zebra, lion yellow, the cow have spots too!
Sizes– the dog is bigger than the cat, the bird is smaller than the cow….
Pairs/mom-baby– use the animals to tell your child about the pairs. Cow and calf, dog- puppy, lion- cub.
There you have tons of activities for you keep your child engaged actively in learning.
More research on how other factors influence language development is still needed. While interventions have concentrated on enhancing the early linguistic environment, they haven’t really considered that language learning is also determined by how each child responds to, and analyses, their input. Oral skills are a precursor to literacy, so it’s not exactly shocking that children at a linguistic disadvantage will have immediate problems with reading and writing in the classroom.
Therefore, as parents, it’s important that we take time out daily to spend with our kids where we talk to them and thus encourage their language development.