Talk More, which goes hand in hand with Tune In, refers to a parent’s increased talking with a child, especially about what the child is focusing on, not to him or her. – Dana Suskind
This is Part 2 of my writing about the book Thirty Million Words by Dana Suskind. It will explain the concept of “Talk More” with our young grandchildren!
More than just the number of words, it’s the kind of words and how those words are said that is important. You want to use a diverse vocabulary, day after day, with a very young child (remember from the first post, that language is crucial in the years from birth to age 3). You want to increase the amount of talking you do WITH a child, especially about what the child is interested in at the moment.
**As a grandma I tend to want to talk about what I think is worth focusing on, and not what my grandchild seems interested in. I need to stop and Tune In into what the child is doing at the moment and go with that.
Suskind talks about 2 different kind of talk we can do with children… narration and parallel talk.
In this kind of talk, you narrate what you are doing while you are doing it. This helps show the relationship between a word and the act or thing it pertains to … for example wash, dry, diaper , hand.
The routines that we take for granted are valuable to young children. Every word, every description helps transform otherwise ordinary events into interactions that are brain building and attachment building.
The book gives the following example of a narration you might do while changing a diaper:
Let Grandma take off your diaper. Oh, it’s so wet, and smell it. So stinky!
Mmmm, look at this new diaper. It’s white on the outside and blue on the inside. And it’s not wet. Feel. It’s dry and so soft.
Let’s wipe you clean and put on some cream to protect your skin. We have to pull back these tabs and close it together. Isn’t that much better?
Let’s put your pretty pink pants back on. One leg in and then two legs. Wet or dry, grandma loves you!
Narration also familiarizes a child with the steps involved in routine activities. Here is another example from the book:
It’s time to brush your teeth. What do we do first? Get your toothbrush! Your toothbrush is purple and Daddy’s is green.
Now, let’s squeeze the toothpaste onto the bristles. A little, little squeeze. Good job.
Now we are ready to brush, brush, brush. Up and down, back and forth. Let’s brush your tongue. Oooh, doesn’t that tickle?
How should we get all that toothpaste out of your mouth? We can fill this cup up with water and then use it.
Parallel talk is a commentary on what the child is doing (while narration is a commentary on what you are doing). Tuning In is a strong component of parallel talk.
The book gives the following example of parallel talking:
You have Grandma’s purse. The purse is sooo heavy for you to lift. Should we see what’s inside?
Ah, you found Grandma’s keys. Don’t put them in your mouth, please. We don’t chew on keys. They’re not food.
Are you trying to open your toy car with the keys? These keys open the front door. C’mon. Let’s go and open the front door with the keys.
Suskind suggests that both narration and parallel talk should never be full of repetitive questions or long, complicated sentences. She says both work best when they include eye contact, talking about things in the immediate environment, and when possible, holding the child close. This allows the child to absorb both language and warmth from you.
Take “It” Away
When you use pronouns like it, them, he, she, a child doesn’t know what “it” refers to. Suskind says it is better to use the real word for the thing.
“I love it!” say “I love your drawing!”
“He is coming over.” say “Papa J is coming over.”
“It is red.” say “That apple is red.”
Things They Can’t See
It is good to talk about things that the child can’t see right then …
- a toy recently played with
- something you did together recently
- a recent visit from a friend
Then a child has to tap into existing vocabulary to understand what you are talking about, without the support of clues that they can actually see in their immediate surroundings.
It is good to restate what a child is saying by filing in the blanks of what they can’t say yet.
Child: Up, up. Grandma : You want Grandma to pick you up.
Child: Doggy sad. Grandma: Your stuffed doggy is sad.
Child: Ice-cream good. Grandma: This strawberry ice-cream tastes so good.
The idea is not to expand with long, complicated sentences, though. The child will not understand. Suskind suggests if a child uses 1 word, then parents should respond with 3 or 4 words. For a child who uses 2 or 3 words, parents should use short sentences.
That is the second concept, Talk More, in a nutshell. I get excited when I think of what this book teaches about how a grandma can help develop the brains of her sweet grandbabies through language.
The next post will talk about the last concept from Thirty Million Words… Take Turns.
Let me know how you have tried to “talk more” with your grandchildren in the comment section below.