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Friday, March 10, 2006

The Importance of Talking to Our Children

People began commenting about how smart or how big a vocabulary my son had even at a tender age of 2 or 2 1/2. He's approaching four now and I still get comments like that. Why do people say my kid is so smart? Why are they even shocked whenever they hear him talk?

I strongly believe it is because we do one simple thing: we talk to him! Whenever he has a question, we do our best to answer him even though the explanation may be well beyond his years. He often wants to know what roads or highways to take whenever we go out. I just tell it to him like I would tell someone who needs directions. For example, I say, "We turn right onto Landess Ave. which becomes Montague Expressway. We keep going straight until we hit Highway 880 and then take the southbound direction to go to Costco. We exit Coleman, then turn right, and Costco is on our left." Yes, this sounds a bit excessive, but he's actually grown accustomed to picking up a lot of information. In addition, I believe explaining things to my children is a good habit for me to develop even when the explanation is over their heads. What often surprises me is that they learn lot quicker than I realize.

My parents took my son to Costco a while ago and on the way back, my son told my Dad exactly which roads and highway to take. My parents were shocked! How did this little 3 yr old know which roads to take? It's simple. We told him, and he remembered.

When Matthew was three, I noticed some residue in his bathtub while he was bathing. Puzzled, I said out loud, "What is this gunk?" Of course this was a rhetorical question so no answer was expected. However, my son answered and said, "I think they are algae, probably." Algae?? He knew what algae was? The truth was, I think he was probably right because I realized the gunk or the residue came from his bath toys. We hadn't washed those toys for a while so most likely algae or perhaps mildew formed inside some of them. The point is, the reason he knew what algae was because we keep a fish aquarium, and whenever my husband cleaned it, he explained the whole process to my son by telling him that there was algae inside the tank that needed to be scrubbed away. Learning is something that can -- and most often does -- happen outside of a classroom or formal teaching environment.

We also don't do baby talk such as "Oh, you have an owie? Let me kissy kissy it." Talking baby talk doesn't encourage good language skills. Instead of talking down to them, have them learn how to speak properly like we do.

I also realize that there's a tendency for adults to answer their kids in such matter: "Oh, you're too young to understand. Anyway, this is the way it is, and that's that." Kids by nature are curious and when they ask questions, they really want to know. So feed on that curiosity by giving them information. This isn't rocket science. It doesn't require you to have a doctroal degree, or have a formal instructional class with your child, or send them to someone else to learn. Just speak to them and tell them what you are doing. By doing so, you are providing an enriched environment which enhances language development.