Child practitioners know how to interact with young children, they ask them direct questions and wait for a response. It's very easy for parents, standing with their child, to hear a question, whether it be asked by a childminder or teacher, or a friend or relative, and to answer the question on behalf of the child. It's so easy to do this that it can be pretty difficult not to. Try to avoid doing this though, it really is important that children learn to engage in conversation and that they learn to listen, interpret and respond to questions in their own right.
As a parent, you don't want to show up your child, or have them stuck in an awkward situation where they don't understand a question. This is such an important part of language development though that you really aren't doing them any favours when you respond on their behalf.
When granny asks 'What have you been doing today?', or the childminder asks 'Is it sunny outside?', there's a really high probability that they already know the answer. Adults are sympathetic to the knowledge of young children and don't ask searching questions requiring a comprehensive, in-depth, analytical response. They are asking in order to engage with the child, to help build a bond and in order to allow the child to practice language. The enquirer isn't usually looking for a definitive answer, they probably aren't even interested in the correct answer; instead they simply want to hear the answer in the child's own words. If parents wade in with the answer then they are denying the child the opportunity to speak for themselves.
If you recognise this behaviour in yourself then try to spot it in your interactions with those around your children. If you are aware that you are doing it, then you will be able to pause, think about it, and then stop before giving an answer. If it's a deep rooted habit that you have developed then it may take a little time to coax yourself away from it, but you will get there eventually.
Research has found that the majority of parents read bedtime stories to children under the age of 5; bedtime reading is an important activity offering a number of benefits. We've talked about the importance of establishing a routine before, and stories just before bedtime signal that it's soon time to go to sleep. Stories also offer the oppportunity to wind down and relax, if the children have been jumping around whilst getting ready for bed, they can now calm down again as you sit in a cuddle and they listen to stories.
Stories offer the opportunity for youngsters to hear language and to begin to understand writing and reading. They are exposed to words and this forms an early foundation in the learning of language. Very recent research, however, found that for older children who can speak, conversing with them instead of just reading to them is six times more beneficial for them to learn language. As your children grow older, make sure you talk with them as well as to them, at the end of the day. Recap what you have done during the day, and if they are at nursery or spending other time away from you, ask them about what they did in that time.
Story time also gives you the opportunity to spend dedicated time with your babies. You probably spend most of your time with your children, but how much of it do you spend interacting with them directly rather than just pushing them in a buggy or being with them? The end of the day provides an opportunity to dedicate one on one time with each of your children as they snuggle down, hopefully for a good night's sleep!
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