“I used to wonder what all things you can talk with a kid? I used to see my friends in one-way conversation with their toddlers, and few engaging in a chat with their kindergartens. Maybe, that is something you pick up. But I was absolutely broken down when I was not really sure if I am talking RIGHT with my kid.”
Research has shown that ENGAGING IN A CONVERSATION with your kids is not just important to the quality of your relationship with them but also their LANGUAGE and COMPREHENSION skills.
Adults who hold back-and-forth conversations with young children rather than just talking to them may be helping to strengthen connections between the language regions of the children’s brains, new research- conducted by Dr. Rachel Romeo, postdoctoral research fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital and lead author of the study and her team- shows.
The researchers made records of the interactions between children and their parents for two days in terms of the number of different words children heard, the number of words they spoke, and the number of turns they took in back-and-forth conversations with their parents or guardians. The team then used an MRI to take images of the children’s brains, and performed common psychological tests to measure the children’s verbal and cognitive abilities.
The comparison showed that the Children who took more turns in back-and-forth conversation with their parents had stronger connections between the brain regions responsible for comprehension (understanding) and production (replying) of speech, and also scored better on verbal skills tests.
In a study in the 1990s, researchers found that by the time children from higher socioeconomic backgrounds (high class society) reached school age they had heard on average 30 million more words than children growing up in lower socioeconomic backgrounds (In the western countries). This was known as the “word gap.”
The study conducted by Romeo’s team, on the other hand, was to think more about the quality of speech children hear and speak as opposed to just quantity.
However, as this study was conducted on a small group (40 children ages 4 to 6), the connection will need to be proven in broader work.
“When you engage children in conversation, you can target language for their appropriate level of development … They’re getting that optimal feedback,” Romeo said.”
Sharing meaningful conversation (involving careful listening on both sides- parents and children, appropriate replies) with your children right from when they are infants and can’t respond to you helps parents to support their child’s development especially in the areas of communication, cognition, and socialisation.
Back and forth conversations between you and your children set the stage for building family values, understanding one another, and maintaining great child-parent bonds.
Conversation after school
MacLaughlin advises that parents should Look their child in the eye, smile at them. This tends to warm up their relationship and also conveys to the child that they have their parents’ full attention and can share anything that they would like to.
Ask the right questions.
We are aiming towards finding out opinions and understandings, there are no right or wrong questions or answers, but parents should ask children questions in a way that they can understand them, so that even if they cannot provide an answer, they can still think about it.
Start questions with “why”, “how”, or phrases like “I would like to know more about”, “Tell me about”, or “I am interested in hearing more about.”
Here are some easy ways to start a question with your child:
What would happen if…; What do you think about…; I wonder…; In what way…; Tell me about…; How can we…; What would you do… etc.
Try as much as possible to relate the story to your child’s or your own experiences. For example: ‘that reminds me of the time when we had visited the lake, and we saw the fishes swimming.’
Another way to connect with your child is to enact these stories with them. It encourages creativity, problem solving (“what should we use for the dress?”), sequencing, and narrative skills.
Understanding Different Types of Questions
Asking targeted questions so that the children must use one, some, or all of the categories below to come up with an answer.
Remember–identify, name, count, repeat, recall
Understand –describe, discuss, explain, summarize
Apply–explain why, dramatize, identify with/relate to
Analyze–recognize change, experiment, infer, compare, contrast
Evaluate–express opinion, judge, defend/criticize
Create–make, construct, design, author
Talk with children about their activities. Questions can lead children to think about and express more complex ideas.
Your child had drawn a scenery- a blue hut, an orange tree, green water and brown grass.
Parent: What were you thinking about when you were coloring? (Analyze)
Child: In future, I want a blue house, a tree with orange flowers, when we cross water on the road it has green green, and in garden there is soil.
Parent [pointing to sky in the drawing]: Tell me about this. (Understand)”
Meaningful conversations with children support their learning about identity, attachment, belonging, relationships and understanding about the world, as well as their capacity for thinking.