“Do you play with your child?”
“We do flash cards.”
“That’s wonderful. But do you play with your child?”
“No. We do flashcards every night.”
A simple conversation during a parent interview is one of my most vivid memories as a Speech-Language Pathologist. A simple question, and an honest answer which I truly appreciated at the time. A mother who loved her child and spent time with her child. A mother who wanted to give her child every advantage in life and development. In her heart, she thought she was doing what was best for her child, and I commended her for it. For all of you wonderful parents out there that continue to seek new ways to help your child grow, you are amazing. Keep up the good work. I hope you enjoy the following suggestions. Here are four simple ways to improve the quality time you spend with your child and promote even greater language development.
- Choose the right activity. Flash cards and technology are wonderful tools. I use them all the time in the right circumstances. However, I never see as much growth in a child as when I just get down on the floor with some good old fashioned games, books, coloring and toys. Kids love it, and their language opportunities increase greatly. Activities such as these provide natural language opportunities that promote play skills, vocabulary, listening skills, attention, sentence structure, problem solving, predicting and much more. Much more than can ever be elicited by a stack of cards.
- Ask the right types of questions. Remember that this time is meant to be enjoyable for both you and your child. Talk to your child. Ask open questions that will allow for more than just a yes/no response. Give your child time to respond. Then build on their answers.
- Notice what your child is doing well and comment on it. It’s easy for us to get in the habit of constantly questioning or telling our child what to do. Children love attention for what they are doing and they love watching adults and imitating what they do. That’s how they learn. If you see your child pushing a car, comment, “I see you pushing the fast red car.” Then you comment on what you’re doing. “I’m going to push my blue car too.” This type of activity is much more fun for both you and your child.
Which leads to the last simple step….
- Have fun with your child. It’s time to remember how to play, to be silly, and to be more childlike. It serves a purpose. Enjoy the quality time you have carved out of your busy schedule to spend with your child. Try to avoid frustration. Play at your child’s level. Children love your attention and respond when they see you having fun with them. Put away the flash cards, iPhones and tablets. Remind your children, and yourself, how fun it is to just play. I promise, it’s quality time well spent.