May’s Theme: Quality Trumps Quantity

Week 1. Quality Interactions
It makes sense that children need to hear a lot of language before they master using it themselves. However, simply hearing lots of words does not mean that our children will automatically become great talkers and language learners. Research now clearly shows that it is the quality of the interaction or conversation that our children have with us that help them to learn new words, how to use them, and how to put together more ‘adult-like’ sentences. Quality interactions mean that we are paying attention to what our child is interested in, join in with her activity, and play the way he wants to. This will give us opportunities to connect and start conversations. Take 10 minutes every day this week to seek out your child and join in with her activity. Let them lead the play and make comments about what they’re doing. You are building quality interaction with each other.

Week 2. Quality Input
We love iPads! There are so many great apps that can be used for learning and be having fun. We also don’t mind indulging in the odd movie or two. Who hasn’t thought that it’s cute when their child mimics an amusing line from a film or sung a heartfelt rendition of the movie’s theme song? We can easily fool ourselves into thinking that these mediums are a great way for our children to learn language. Whilst our child is exposed to new words and sentences through various devices, research tells us that this is not the best way to learn speech and language. Remember that quality trumps quantity every time. A short conversation about something your child shows an interest in is a far more effective way for your child to learn. It’s their opportunity to hear and learn new words, and practice their own language skills. This week, before we turn on a device for our child, let’s take a few minutes to include them in whatever we’re doing. Yes, it may be easier to distract them while you make dinner or fold the washing, but taking time for some quality conversation, answering their questions and talking about what you are doing together will build their language far faster than time spent on a screen.

Week 3. Quality Words
Our world revolves around words. We use them continuously throughout the day. Even if we are not big talkers, we are still using words to read, think, recall memories and solve problems within our own heads. Words are one of the most vital learning tools for all of us. To help our children learn, let’s teach them some great words. Instead of calling something ‘big’, try adding in other words that mean the same thing (e.g. huge, enormous, gigantic, humongous). Think about all the other words you can use to describe or talk about how you feel (e.g. joyful, contented, excited, ecstatic instead of just ‘happy’), how things move (e.g. slithering, clambering, leaping), look, or feel. Talk about the interesting words you find in books. Use the word, talk about what it means, and relate it to something your child is familiar with. Our pre-schoolers are never too young to learn new and interesting words.

Week 4. Quality Corrections
What’s the best way to address the little mistakes our children make when they are speaking? If our child is having difficulty saying a sound or word, or if they are missing parts of their sentences, we are tempted to ask them to listen to us and practice the word over again. The best way to help a child ‘fix up’ their mistakes is to use a technique called modeling and recasting. This simply means that when you hear a mistake, YOU take responsibility for repeating the correct form of the word or sentence back to your child. A quality correction does not involve pointing out the mistake to your child or asking them to say it again. Quality corrections occur when the adult repeats the words clearly in the correct sentences, and many times over without disrupting the flow of the conversation. For example, if your child says, “that’s my ‘tat’”, you could say “oh I see the cat, it’s a soft cat, I love the cat’s sleek fur, look how the cat is moving, I think the cat is slinking along, how would you describe the cat?” This week focus on giving your child opportunities for quality corrections.

Written by Alison
Speech Pathologist
Newcastle Speech Pathology