Blah Blah Blah

5 Jan

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First off, I would like to thank you all for reading this blog. When I see how many hits I get each day, it validates that there is indeed a need to consider and discuss what we are doing at home with and for our children. I hope you will stay tuned to pick up some new ideas and even share some of your own tips with the rest of us.

Before I go into the next tip, I will need you to visualize a mother picking up her child at preschool. She has answered an important call on her way over to the school and is continuing the chat into the building, silently picks up her child, and then walks out holding her kid’s hand. They get into the car, and with the wonders of modern technology, the mom is able to complete her important conversation while her child buckles himself in and eats his snack in silence.

Is this at all familiar to you?

Now imagine a parent walking his or her child in the stroller. The child is looking at traffic, singing, while the parent is on the phone.

Does this ring a bell?

Now move onto the grocery store. A caregiver is pushing the cart while the child is in the front pulling stuff off the shelves naming every item he throws in. Caregiver says, “SHHHH, I am on the phone.” Then into the phone: “This kid doesn’t let me get a thing done.”

I have probably just described any one of us at one instance or another. Can any one of us busy parents/grandparents/nannies say that we have NEVER been on the phone while out and about with our children? Probably not. I, too, feel that sometimes the only time I can get a word in, or be at all productive, is when my kids are strapped in…

The purpose of this blog entry is to inspire all of us to stop and think before we make that call or have a long conversation while out and about with our children. When our children are strapped in—be it in the car, the stroller, or the shopping cart— we are able to have the most meaningful interactions we will have all day. The “on-the-go” chats about what we see and do are the most important learning experiences for our young children.

You may be asking: “Why does it matter if I am on my phone while we walk or drive?” What I have for an answer is my opinion, based on what skills I have watched my children acquire along the way and by what I have seen and read as a teacher of young children. By talking to your young child about the world around her, you are helping her to become a member of society. You are helping her to process what she sees around her, helping her find vocabulary to describe and assimilate her new knowledge and observations into her world.

Here is an example. In just one short trip to the grocery store, your child has the potential to learn:
-vocabulary for all the objects around the market
number skills as you count foods as you put them into your cart
-social skills as you interact with those around you (including your child)
-literacy skills as you read a shopping list or make one for your child to read
-attributes and organization of food around the store: green apples, red apples, fruit in one place, fish in another…

Transition times, as short as they may be, also prove to be wonderful times for learning. In the short time it takes you to walk upstairs with your child, walk to the car, take a bath, prepare dinner, you can work on some basic literacy and mathematical skills that your child will need for kindergarten, and beyond. Here are just a few of my favorite educational space fillers:

Sing your ABCs and other kids’ songs
Count steps (by 1’s, 2’s,backwards, forwards)
Rhyming (“bat rhymes with fat. Mat rhymes with bat.”)

Though you may start off feeling like you are just reciting to your child, you are actually laying the foundations. In no time at all, your child will join in.

When you talk to your child you are helping to build phonological awareness skills. What does that mean? As Hallie Kay Yopp and Ruth Helen Yopp, two professors in the College of Education at California State University define it in an article (“Phonological Awareness is Child’s Play”, 2009):
“Phonological awareness is the ability to attend to and manipulate units of sound in speech (syllables, onsets and rimes, and phonemes) independent of meaning.”
Simply put, your child will learn to understand to break down words, hear syllables, make rhymes (words that SOUND as if they have the same ending) and detect words that have the same endings and sounds within syllables (rimes). Phonological awareness is directly correlated to your child’s later success in reading and spelling.

So, there you have it. I am sure many of you are already doing exactly what I’ve discussed in this blog. If so, I hope I have helped you understand how valuable these seemingly trivial interactions are to your young child’s social and intellectual development. In later blogs, I will revisit this topic and give you more ideas. Feel free to share your own ideas in the comments section of this blog.
Until then, I hope that I have given you the food for thought you need to bring the joy back into grocery shopping. (I think we all need a little reminder every once in a while! I know I do.)

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3 Responses to “Blah Blah Blah”

  1. hearthwife January 5, 2013 at 10:33 pm #

    So I’m wondering whether there’s a reason to use the ABCs, or counting, or rhymes… the standard kid stuff. I sort of assume that there’s a good reason it’s standard, but it tends to drive me batty, so I always just talk. With a baby, I just either sing things I like, or keep a running monologue going about whatever is around. So walking, I talk about concrete, and flowers, and trees, and cars, and traffic safety, and where we’re going… In the store I talk about what I’m looking for, how much of it I want, what I’m going to use it for, annoying advertising, etc. I talk constantly, but most of the standard kid stuff didn’t come up unless they asked, which they did sometimes because they heard it in their bedtime stories. I’ve another baby coming, so I’m wondering whether it’d be better to shift in the direction of ‘kid stuff’ as much as I can stand, or whether it makes any difference.

    • neesie74 January 6, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

      Thank you for your thoughtful response. You have brought up some great points.

      I think talking to your kids and interacting with them is paramount–especially for young kids and babies. Keep up what you are doing. Children need to hear you talk and it will really be great in so many ways as you bond with your child and introduce him to the world around him.

      As your children get closer to age 3,4,5, I would definitely try to have that “kids stuff” come up somehow, bedtime is a perfectly nice time for it as well. It is as easy as singing the songs while you drive, walk, shop, change into pajamas, etc.

      I can tell you this: the kids who enter kindergarten with the phonological awareness really DO have a leg up as they enter school and learn to read.

      That said, I am by no means encouraging you to start a tutorial every time your kid is strapped into a car seat. 🙂 It should be fun and organic. Nothing that requires a lesson plan.

      I think you are already doing THE most important thing you can possibly do: you are enjoying and interacting with your child. Keep it up!!!

  2. Sarah January 6, 2013 at 11:10 pm #

    Another great one Denise! While your focus is primarily on school readiness, there are a couple of other reasons to get off the phone, especially when in a school or store.
    1. It teaches your child good manners for interacting with people who work there. I hated it when parents would be picking up their kindergartners and would not acknowledge me as their child’s teacher. I often had something (not urgent but not insignificant) I wanted to tell them about their child’s day, but I didn’t want to interrupt their call and couldn’t even get eye contact. In stores, too, it’s important to visually and verbally acknowledge the cashier and others who greet and help us.
    2. It will come back to bite you. I heard a technology researcher at MIT talking about this generation of kids and their use of devices, and she said it started with their parents, and the devices used to be the kids’ competition for their parents’ attention. Later on, when they have them, they will use them to tune us out if that is what they have seen modeled.

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