Table Talk – Eating Together, Learning Together
Why is it a good idea for families to eat dinner together? Mealtime can be conversation time. In a study of 85 low income families in eastern Massachusetts, researchers found that young children exposed to talk during meals actually did better in kindergarten and first grade than their counterparts who did not eat with their families. The types of conversations that occur at the table, but can also occur elsewhere, are critical to language development. What implications does this have for parents of young children?
- Mealtime is a good time to expose youngsters to the “give and take” of conversation involving several people. Children learn how to negotiate their way into a conversation, as well as to listen to others both important preschool skills.
- The ability to tell a story, such as relating the events of the day, is crucial for pre-schoolers. Mealtime is a great time for storytelling.
- Narrative conversation can also take place when reading a book. Encourage children to relate back a story, in order, after becoming familiar with a book. Use the pictures as clues.
- Talk about things in the child’s real life that are related to a particular book. For example, when reading a book about the zoo, encourage the child to tell the story about when he/she went to the zoo.
- Playtime is a great time for children to tell stories. A pretend tea party or block play can precipitate all sorts of conversation and imaginative storytelling.
- Expose children to “rare” words. Researchers cited words such as “gymnastics” or “wriggling” as vocabulary they would consider rare. Those children exposed to this enhanced vocabulary ultimately score higher on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, a test linked to children’s later abilities to read.
- Talk during bathtime, talk during walks, talk while at the supermarket. The Parent-Child Home Program has always emphasized the joy and value of parents verbally interacting with their children everyday.
- Don’t forget — television can get in the way of conversation. Keep TV to a minimum. If a certain TV show is a must for a child, talk about that too!
The Parent-Child Home Program Recommends
Babies on the Move – by Susan Canizares and Daniel Moreton – From strollers to blankets to baskets, babies get around in many different ways. This board book features photos from all over the world, with minimal text, yet lots to talk about. Ideal for 2-year-olds.
Reprinted with the permission of the Parent-Child Home Program, Inc.
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