All About Preschool Talkers

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It may be exhausting for you to try and answer all of your little one’s questions, but you’ve gotta love all of that enthusiasm!

Over-Talker? or Under-Talker


Life With A Chatterbug …

Non-stop, childhood chatter. It’s often a steady droning — an unstoppable flood of interrogation. “What’s that?” “Why do cows eat grass?” “What makes a tree grow?” Your ears are sore; your brain is tired. “How can I handle one more question?” you wonder.
Not to fear, help is here. Below are four key tips for dealing with your mini motor mouth.

1. Chatter Happens.
Toddlers are curious about life. Realize that your child’s chatter is a sign of developing communication and that it’s a good thing. While chatter cannot — and should not — be discouraged, a child can learn that there’s a correct time and place for conversation. Gently teach rules of engagement!

2. Don’t Ignore the Unavoidable.
At first, all those questions are cute. But after a few hundred or so, they can be annoying. Some parents try simply to ignore the babble, but you can do this for only so long before your child’s frustration explodes, and he WILL demand a response.
Instead of ignoring him, provide simple answers. For example, if he asks, “Where does the food go after I eat?” instead of saying, “In your belly”— which will only lead to more questions — in simple terms, explain how the digestive system works. Of course, your child won’t be able to fully understand, but he will learn, and he will feel that you’re taking his questions seriously. You CAN be his teacher.

3. Use the Interrupt Rule.
One of the most common complaints about young chatterers is the constant interruptions it causes. To combat this, Gary Ezzo, founder of Growing Kids International, suggests teaching “the interrupt rule.” He explains it like this: “When your child needs to interrupt, have him rest his hand on your side or your shoulder and wait silently until you acknowledge him. He should not pull, tap or shake you for your attention. Rather, he should stand patiently with a hand on your side. This gesture beautifully displays respect for you and the one with whom you’re speaking.”
Parents can also use the interrupt rule when on the phone, reading a book, working on the computer or for other projects that require full attention. If your child’s not close enough to touch you, have him raise his hand or politely ask for your attention. This will help to control the chatter during times when you cannot give him your full attention.

Tricia Goyer is a mom and  freelance writer.


Stimulate the Talking …

The one who you KNOW wants to say something but who clams up from the start — the under-talker. There are some simple ways to nurture your child’s language development:

1. Talk, talk, talk.
Narrate the day as it evolves. Tell your child, for instance, “Time to get up! Say, ‘Wake up time!’” Do this with your activities together.

2. Read, read, read.
A major predictor of future reading success is the amount of time you spend reading with your child — and it also stimulates an interest in communication. Start with board books, go to the library, make it a fun and playful time and listen when she responds.
3. Enjoy music together.
Singing songs together is a great way to hear your child’s voice. Sing WITH your child — don’t leave her hanging by stopping because then she’ll stop!

4. Tell stories to each other.
Make up short tales with fun characters that fit your child’s interests and aren’t too scary for her liking. Ask her what happens next!

5. Follow your child’s lead.
If your little one seems interested in a particular picture in a book, talk it up! If she likes a particular boat, show her more boats and talk about them, too. Repeat her babbles back to her, ask questions and interact with her. You can even try recording your child on a tape recorder and playing it back.

6. Don’t criticize your child’s articulation or speech patterns.
Instead, repeat her statements back to her with the correct pronunciation or word usage. Give your child lots of praise for her efforts.

7. Use TV and computers sparingly.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children younger than 2 not watch TV at all, and that children 2 and older view no more than two hours of quality programming a day. While some educational programs can be beneficial to kids, TV shows don’t interact with or respond to children, which are the two catalysts kids need to learn language. Computer games are interactive, but they aren’t responsive to a child’s ideas.

8. Go on adventures together.
Visit the zoo, an activity center or a children’s museum to open up a whole new world for your child. As an added bonus, she’ll want to learn the names of all those fascinating creatures and fun activities she experienced.

If There’s a Delay:
Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center

If you’ve tried everything to encourage your child’s language development but feel something’s not right, talk to your pediatrician for guidance. You may be referred to the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center where preschool language services are available. The center provides a variety of services, including individual or group therapy for children ages 4 and younger, depending upon your child’s needs. Children must be at least 2 to participate in group therapy. The center’s located at 1215 21st Ave. S. in Nashville. To learn more, call 936-5000.

Susan Swindell Day is the editor in chief of Nashville Parent and the mom of four amazing kids.

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