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As parents, we think about loving and responding to our babies and little ones, and we think about reading to our children. We just don’t usually think about how the loving interactions — cooing when our baby coos, or laughing in response to our toddler’s giggles — add up to the kind of language development that leads to better reading skills.

But research from MIT and the Harvard Graduate School of Education tells us that each of those interactions matters in the end.  We are giving our children opportunities to build brain architecture and critical thinking skills whenever we interact in a back-and-forth kind of way with our babies or toddlers, or when we have real conversations with our preschoolers and early elementary age children that ping-pong from them to us and back again. It’s the combination of the sweet social connection with us, plus the shared language-filled moment, that makes the difference.

What does that mean for parents in the everyday?

Life is busy, and often we end up telling or asking our kids things (e.g., “We need to go, so finish your breakfast!” “Where are your socks?”), or trying to start a conversation that is met with little response (e.g., “Did you have a fun day?”). But we need to make sure our children are getting chances each day to have high-quality, serve-and-return interactions, from birth through grade 3 especially. And when this kind of meaningful and engaging talk fills their lives and our homes, we are helping to create little conversationalists who are fun to be with, and who happen to have formed strong language and literacy skills. Everybody wins.

For more information on why rich conversations are so important for building lifelong skills during the early years, see our article on Building Knowledge through Everyday Conversations.

Learn more about how you can integrate rich, skill-building conversations into your daily routine with the Abound app.