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Conversations with a 4-year-old

August 18, 2008

by Jenni Sebora

My 4-year-old daughter, Delaney, and I had a wonderful conversation as we do on a regular basis.

We were playing at the park in the sand, and she was inquisitive and asked me, “Mom, do you like being a teacher?”

“Yes,” I answered, and she wanted to know why. “I like children,” I said, “but guess which children I like the best?” I asked her.

“Me, Callie (her sister), and Caleb (her brother),” she responded. “Yep,” I said.

“How do you be a teacher,” she wanted to know. “You have to go to college to learn to be one,” I said.

“Did you study hard?” she asked. I told her yes, I did. “That’s how you became a teacher,” she exclaimed with assurance of her answer.

Then she further asked me when my first teaching job was and how old I was. I told her I was 23.

“You are 42 now,” she said.

“Yes,” I said.

“Do your kids (students) listen to you?” she wanted to know.

“Most of the time,” I answered.

And that was all she needed to know (well, for the time being) and she continued playing in the sand.

What fun to have such a conversation with a wee little one. Their minds are forever in motion.

Our little ones are curious and want to know about the world around them, and it is our job to teach them. The world is a big place and it can be baffling to our children. Everything is new.

We need take the time to answer our young one’s questions or at least do the best we can.

In a “Parent & Child” 2006 article, “So Many Questions,” by Bill Zimmerman, it notes that encouraging our children to ask questions helps them to become stronger thinkers. It also helps them gain control over their world. We may not have all the answers for them, but the importance, many times, is the asking of the questions that will in turn hopefully help set the stage for our children to grow into critical thinkers.

The article also noted that the inquiries that our children have helps them eventually consider the complexities of life. Sometimes there are no simple answers to the questions. That, too, can be an important lesson for our children.

Remember conversing with our children and taking the time to listen to them and their questions helps us stay connected. It also helps us as parents and adults get a handle on how our children view their world, the article added.

The world can be a confusing place, and we need to guide our children through the confusion and their curiosity.

What are some other activities we can do to encourage speech and language development in our little ones?

Professionals say that for our very youngest, birth through about two years old, we can encourage them to make vowel-like and consonant-vowel sounds, such as “da,” “ma,” and “ba.”

Imitate your baby’s facial expressions and laughter, and teach them to imitate your actions, such as clapping hands, playing peek-a-boo, etc.

Identify colors. Count things. Use gestures to demonstrate that gestures have meaning like waving hello or goodbye. And as always, at all ages, read to them. For our youngest, we don’t necessarily have to follow the words on the page; we may just want to describe in simple words what is occurring on the page.

With the older toddlers to preschoolers, we should use clear and simple speech to allow for modeling.

Sing simple songs; recite nursery rhymes. Expand the vocabulary. Name items, such as body parts and what we do with them.

Ask questions that require a choice and have them answer it. Do you want an apple or a banana?

Use pictures of familiar places and people, and talk about them and what is happening in the picture.

For the older preschoolers to kindergarten age, continue to encourage their conversation and give them your full attention when they speak with you whenever you can.

Discuss the concepts of spatial relations, first, middle, last, behind, across, etc.

Play games with them and pretend play, such as “house” and “school.” While shopping, discuss with them the items you are buying, the quantity, the shape, size, etc. Use other daily activities as sources of conversation and vocabulary enrichment.

Encourage your child to “tell” you stories while looking at a book. Have them describe what is happening in the pictures.

Main source: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, www.asha.org

Have fun conversing with your children; enjoy their questioning and curiosity.

Remember that is how they are learning about the world around them. We are their tour guides, so to speak. You may even want to jot a few of those conversations down for the memory book.