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Chatting with Children

This article describes how talking with your toddler can speed up reading skill development.

Chatting with Children

language awareness 85You should always chat with your baby to help her learn to talk. But did you know it's just as important to talk to your toddler, too? Talking helps him learn language skills and lets him know what he says is important.

What to do:

The first activities in the list below work well with younger children. As your child grows older, the later activities let him do more. But keep doing the first ones as long as he enjoys them.

1. Talk with your toddler often. When feeding, bathing, and dressing him, ask him to name or find different objects or clothing. Point out colors, sizes, and shapes.

2. Talk with your child as you read together. Point to pictures and name what is in them. When he is ready, ask him to do the same.

3. Teach your toddler to be a helper by asking him to find things. When cooking in the kitchen, give him pots and pans or measuring spoons to play with. Ask him what he is doing and answer his questions.

4. Whatever you do together, talk about it with your child. When you eat meals, take walks, go to the store, or visit the library, talk with each other. These and other activities give the two of you a chance to ask and answer questions. "Which flowers are red? Which are yellow?" "What else do you see in the garden?" Challenge your child by asking questions that need more than a yes or no answer.

5. Listen to your child's questions patiently and answer them just as patiently. If you don't know the answer, have him join you as you look it up in a book. He will then see how important books are as sources of information.

6. Talk about books you have read together. Ask about favorite parts and answer your child's questions about events or characters.

7. Have your child tell you a story. Then ask him questions, explaining that you need to understand better.

8. When he is able, ask him to help you in the kitchen. He could set the table or decorate a batch of cookies. A first-grader may enjoy helping you follow a simple recipe. Talk about what you're fixing, what you're cooking with, what he likes to eat, and more.

9. Ask yourself if the TV is on too much. If so, turn it off and talk!

Talking and having conversations play a necessary part in helping your child's language skills grow.

Source: Helping Your Child Become a Reader, U.S. Department of Education

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