Habitot Children's Museum

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Habitot Children's Museum

Habitot Children's Museum
2065 Kittredge Street
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 647-1111

Parenting Q&A
In today's world, cell phones, BlackBerrys and iPods are increasingly getting in the way of important verbal interactions between parents and children. Most parents are aware that "tuning in" to their babies is crucial to their healthy development but are seemingly less concerned about the need to continue and even increase their verbal interactions, as well as eye contact and physical affection, with their toddlers and preschoolers as they struggle to learn language, vocabulary and how the world works.

Randi Jacoby, a speech and language specialist in New York was recently quoted in a New York Times article expressing alarm that because of the electronic distractions, young children are not receiving enough one-on-one feedback from parents as they struggle to formulate utterances and build their language and cognitive skills. Parents are distracted and "the most basic language skills are not being taught by example," she says.

Ms. Jacoby’s general advice to parents: “Reward your little one’s communicative attempts with your heightened attention to his/her conversation. Be prepared to put down your cellphone and look them squarely in the eye as they share their thoughts with you.”

“Talk while you are doing things,” the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association suggests. “Talk about where you are going, what you will do once you get there, and who and what you’ll see. You might say things like, “Now we’re going to put on your socks,” “We’re going in the car to see Grandma,” or, “When we get to the playground, I’ll push you on the swing.”

Here are some ideas for engaging your child with language and setting up a healthy communication style:
    • From birth, parents should build healthy attachment with their babies by talking to them, smiling at them, and looking them in the eye. It is never to early to communicate with your child, not only to develop their cognitive skills, but also to bond with them and make them feel loved.

    •While infants are limited in their ability to speak, they communicate their needs through their cries. It is important to be receptive to their cries and to try to decipher what their needs might be based on the noises they make. Infancy is also a time when a baby's receptive language and two-way communication is developing. Be mindful of the tone that you take with your baby, as they will be paying close attention to the pitch in your voice and will learn to respond accordingly.

    • When your child learning to talk, listen actively, and attempt to make out what they are trying to say. As your child gets older starts identifying objects with words, reinforce by repeating the word. If you child mispronounces a new word, instead of correcting him, reinforce the learning process by repeating the word correctly. For example, if your child is learning to say spaghetti and it comes out "pissgetti," respond by saying, "oh you want some spaghetti for dinner? Sure, let's make spaghetti!"

    • With toddlers and preschoolers, make narrating daily life a routine. Highlight observations about things you see or experience. On BART, talk about the passengers getting on and off, the tunnels and raised bridges you go through. While preparing dinner, talk about mixing and stirring and putting things in the oven as you do them. Make a habit of explaining the why's and wherefore's even if your child has not asked a question. When they do ask a question, listen intently, and say, "that's a good question!" Then lead them to the answer with your followup questions and comments.

And if you needed more reinforcement, a groundbreaking study of language and literacy among hundreds of preschoolers at the University of Illinois has documented that the sheer number of words a child hears in the early years has a significant impact on school readiness, learnin to read and on their future academic success.

Parenting Resources

Books and Articles for Adults:

From Birth, Engage Your Child With Talk. Brody, Jane (2009). From The New York Times Web Site: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/29/health/29brod.html?pagewanted=1

Activities that Promote Bonding Between You and Your Toddler.. Michael, Shannon (2007). From the Associated Content Web Site: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/464089/activities_that_promote_bonding_between.html?cat=255

How you can help your preschooler become a reader. Improve-Reading-Skills.Com (2009). From the Improve-Reading-Skills Web Site: http://www.improve-reading-skills.com/birth_preschool/becoming_a_reader.htm

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