“Hectic” is how many young parents I know describe their everyday lives. Yet they really want to spend time with their young children and help those brains grow.
Over the years, as a parent and now a grandparent, I’ve learned a few tricks. Busy times often present wonderful opportunities for your child to explore the world around him. The more that’s going on around you, the more there is to talk about.
Long before a baby learns to talk, she is learning about language and communication. When you talk with her and ask questions (and answer them, too), you help her learn. Be sure to pay attention to her responses, whether it’s a spoken answer, a smile, a questioning look, or a pointing finger. As she grows older, respond as she asks you questions or tells you stories. Keep the conversation going. Communication is a two-way street, after all.
Change it up sometimes, and sing instead of talk. When our children were little, we learned about putting on an opera from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” So we sang “What shall we have for breakfast?” and “It’s time for bed” – almost anything we would have spoken to each other.
It’s fun for both parents and children when, instead of what might be called “business talk,” parents use more descriptive words. For example, when a child drops a spoon, instead of saying, “Pick it up,” the parent says, “Oh, you dropped your spoon. Get down from your chair and pick it up, please. Let’s wash it off.”
You can engage your child during everyday activities, and have fun together while you’re helping your child learn.
- At the grocery store:
“I wonder which apples we should get – red or green?”
“Can you point out something blue?”
“What color is milk? Who drinks milk?”
- At the gas station:
“Why do we put gas in the car? To make it run!”
- While driving:
“Let’s sing!” (whatever songs you and your child like)
“Do you see that red light? What does it mean?”
“We’re almost to our street. Which way should we turn?”
- Getting ready to leave home:
“What else do we need before we can leave?” (your gloves, hat, and jacket)
“Let’s put on your brown boots. Which one first – right or left?”
Words count. Read, talk, play, and sing every day.