These will help you to engage in productive conversations with children during play
Research shows that children at a young age learn through playing, so next time you see your child playing know that there is so much more going on, for example, when a child is pretending to cook, he is imitating what he has seen you doing, he is using math as he counts how many cookies are there in the pretend oven, he is learning to take turns if this play involves more than one person, he is learning about food, vocabulary, social expectations, etc.
Adults play a vital role at understanding the power of play why? Because when you really value and understand that children are not just playing, but learning then you will want to facilitate their play by either talking to them, or setting up the environment for their play. Going back to the pretend cooking example, a parent who understands and sees the potential to help may bring a table where the child can set up his pretend dinner, facilitate a hat, gloves, etc to make their play more interesting.
The role of the adult does not end up there, the most important part is when the parent or caregiver sees the potential in the play and interacts with the child in a way that allow him to learn new ideas, concepts, and vocabulary. How does an adult can do this? Simple, by talking during play, he can either describe, or ask open -ended questions. For example for the pretend cooking the parent can say: “ I see you are baking cookies, what flavor are they? What ingredients did you put on those, what is your recipe for these delicious cookies, etc. By describing, the child will hear words that may be new for him, by asking questions the child will see you are interested and care about their game.
Younger children who do not speak yet also benefit from hearing descriptions, even though they do not speak, their brain is developing at such a fast speed that every second the brain is making connections and learning new words. When you get involved and start talking and showing interest children will develop trust, have a strong bond with the caregiver, and will be more available to listen to you simply because the child will develop a positive connection through the interactions during play.
Here are some open-ended questions you can ask a child for productive conversation with children that will help your child advance and take their play to the next level:
1. Tell me about your play
2. I See you are cooking, I see you are moving those cars back and forth, I see…..(describe their play)
3. What would happen if
4. How come this/that...
5. I like how you are…..
Don’t be afraid to use big words, children will learn them and it will show when other people talk to them; then, you will be hearing compliments from other parents about the sophisticated vocabulary your children are able to say! so now go ahead and try this, you will be happy you did!