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Research is key to small talk

Goodstart centres

How well do you know what your little one has been up to during the day?

While it’s nice to hear what your toddler did during the work day, getting more than a one-word response can be a little tricky.

Goodstart Early Learning senior speech pathologist Tiffany Goss said the best way to instigate conversations was to do a little research before starting.

“Open-ended questions are very important when encouraging children to have a chat,” Ms Goss said. “These mean there are a multitude of answers to give and your child can lead the way.”

But research is key.

“When you pick your child up at the end of the day, have a read of their daily learning journal to find out what how they’ve been engaged. Have a chat to their educator to hear about what they’ve been doing and learning. Showing a specific interest in what they have been doing while away from you  to is reinforcing for children and provides an opportunity for them to convey their thoughts, feelings and ideas. “

She said parents could find a photo in the daily learning book and ask questions such “What are you doing here?” and “Who is in the picture with you?” This provides a visual clue for the child which can support their memory and encourage them to offer information. Regardless of the answer, parents can use the Strive for 5 strategy which includes observing, waiting, listening and responding to your child through questions, statements and reactions.

“It’s a simple and effective communication tool that gives parents the skills to help children learn language and can amplify children’s development,” Ms Goss said. “It’s about active listening and pausing and letting the child respond to questions or statements.”

The Strive for Five strategy involves parents taking part in a five-step (or more) conversation with their child – in other words, having five turns in a conversation using words and non-verbal responses, such as facial expressions and gesture.

“The strategy is all about extending language and looks different for children at every age. Babies will communicate a lot more with facial expressions and babbling, while older children may often say more and be descriptive. It is important to notice your child’s communication preferences and strengths.

“You shouldn’t demand or expect to get answers for every conversation you have. Non-verbal communication is important at every age as are age-appropriate questions however, very simply put, two-year-olds are starting to put two words together, three-year-olds are starting to put three words together and four-year-olds can start to put four words together.

“But these developmental milestones are not set in concrete and are only a general indication of your child’s language development.

“And toddlers are still developing their awareness of where they fit with their world, whilst four year olds have had more of an opportunity over time to learn about the world around them so their responses in conversations will reflect their different levels of development.”

Questions to help you find out about your child's day:
  • What was the funniest thing that happened today?
  • Who was your friend at the centre today?
  • Which area of the centre is the most fun?
  • I had grapes for a snack today. What did you have?
  • Did you do anything that you didn’t enjoy today?
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