Baby on phone

What Does a Great Conversation Look Like?

It's not just the abundance of words, it's the quality.

Research in Language Development

During the 1990s research showed that the more words a young child hears the better that child will do in school. But, more recent research has better defined the 1990s research and has shown it is not just the abundance of words that supports a child’s language and literacy success, it is also the quality of the conversations the child engages in with caring adults.

This updated research in young children’s language and literacy development supports the importance of high-quality two way communication for language, literacy and social success.

What Does a Great Conversation Look Like

A great conversation with your child includes …

  1. A continuous respectful and loving relationship
  2. Talking about what interests your child and following your child’s lead in topics
  3. Taking turns listening and speaking

These three areas will support your child’s language and literacy success.

Strategies to Support a Conversation

When starting a conversation with your young child pay attention to both verbal and non-verbal communication. When your child looks and smiles at you, points to an object, and/or babbles to get your attention, respond to these initiatives with both gestures and words. Give your babies wait time when holding a conversation. You say something and smile and you wait until your baby responds back with a smile and/or a vocalization. Wait time is important when conversing with your baby. Babies need time to internalize your communication and respond back to you.
When your toddler points to the tub for a bath, you can respond with a full sentence talking about the toys that will be fun to play with in the water. Sound enthusiastic and again wait for a response. Also try and ask meaningful questions not questions you already know the answer to. Such as asking your child what should happen next during play. And, model and teach your child to say ‘Hello’ and ‘Good-bye’ to people. These type of skills are not only important in initiating a conversation, they are important in starting a conversation to support friendships.

Our monthly Early Learning newsletter is written by staff in our Early Learning Program.

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