There have been an increasing number of studies during the past decade, focusing on the importance of parents’ verbal engagement with their children. Some studies discuss the differences between higher income and lower income housing (the famous ’30-million-word gap’ study by Hart and Risley). Other studies discredit this one and focus more on cultural differences in raising children. I am not here however to debate those or write a professionally sited paper.
I am interested though, in ways people can engage with their children and what makes sense to me is that the more words your children hear, the more they will come to recognise. Again, I have read papers that say having normal conversations with babies and toddlers is the best way for them to learn new words. I have read others that say reading books to them is actually better. Surely it is all good, no? A baby/toddler hears lots of words, from lots of places and starts to recognise them. Eventually they will start to use them. Finally when it comes to reading, they will recognise them in print. You are more likely to read/recognise and remember a word that you already know and understand.
I never shut up around my kids. So now I have a 4 year old who never shuts up and drives me crazy. But that’s great! His vocabulary is insane. He is always surprising me using new words in the correct context. Hopefully his little brother is on the same track since he has another whole person blabbering away at him every day.
Admittedly I did find it a bit difficult in the very beginning with my first child. This tiny little person would stare up at me as I washed the dishes and explained what I was doing. It felt silly. Going out for a walk with a baby, I would be at a bit of a loss. You can only point out so many trees and cars and people.
That is where singing came in. My other half sings all the time. He sings random old songs nobody else has heard of. He makes up songs about everything: putting toast in the toaster; digging up his garden; looking for the TV remote or washing his hair.
So I started copying him. I’d sing about anything. It got easier (and the songs got better!) the older my son got and the more he developed his own interests. Now I’m on kid number two and he is nearly 2 years old, I’m an absolute pro!
We currently have two favourite tunes we use and re-write the lyrics constantly. The first is 5 Little Ducks. In case you don’t know the tune, we sing one similar to this:
Depending on the current interest in the house, we change it up to something like:
Our other favourite at the minute is A Big Red Bus. That might only be familiar to people in the UK. I think we called it A Pizza Hut when I was a kid, so North Americans would probably know it as that. Either way, here is the tune:
This one is even easier to make up on the spot. My toddler absolutely loves anything on wheels (trucks, buses, trains, all constructions vehicles). So on our walk to school, we usually sing what we see. Something like this:
Outside of bedtime, do you sing to your kids while wandering around? It really is such a great way to keep the ‘conversation’ going when there isn’t much else to say (or you are too tired to say anything!). It is repetitive which kids love and need.
Hello! I'm Deb
a book-toting mother of two and an elementary (primary) school teacher. I love making stories engaging and interactive for kids.
Find us here too: