Find quality time
Tuesday, October 2, 2018
It is important for parents to find the time to interact directly with their child whenever they can. That means ensuring too many other things do not get in the way, says Annette Rawstrone.
How can I build a language rich environment?
Studies have shown that children who are given plenty of time to engage in conversation and share books during early childhood will develop larger vocabularies and better grammar. But it can be difficult to find the time to nurture your child’s speech and language development when you’re in employment, have chores to do, and have children’s activities and parties to fit in.
Building a language rich environment means turning off the TV and distracting background noise, interacting directly with your child, turn taking and engaging fully with them – not listening out for your phone, discreetly texting, or planning tomorrow’s meeting in your head but talking, playing and having fun with them.
For example, finding 10 minutes to engage in role play is relaxing and enjoyable and can help your child’s imagination, language acquisition and turn taking skills. Or make time to spend a few minutes having some quiet time together away from distractions, simply chatting or looking at the pictures in a book. Quality, rather than quantity, can make a big difference.
How can I create more time in the day?
According to a recent survey by Thomas Cook, half of British parents spend less than one hour of quality time with their children each day. Think about how much you cram in to a typical week and consider whether it’s all necessary:
- Do you really have to keep the house sparkling?
- Is it necessary to iron all the clothes?
- Must you stay late at work to clear all your emails?
- Do your children really need to do a drama group and swimming?
- Instead of cooking from scratch every day could you plan ahead and batch cook?
Perhaps you could cut back on certain things and free up an hour to spend quality time together with your child instead. This is important because spending time with your child can impact on how they develop socially and psychologically. A less hectic lifestyle could also mean that you spend less time on your phone making arrangements and find that you all have more down time.
How can I squeeze quality time into busy life?
Take the opportunity to interact directly with your child whenever you can. Even when you’ve got places to get to and jobs to do you can still talk to your child. Practise narrating the day, such as observing and commenting on what your child is doing. For example, how the suddy soap feels when you’re helping them to wash their hands, what the trees look like when you’re walking down the road, or that it’s time to get in the car and ask whether they can climb into their seat.
Routine activities can be language learning ones. Point and name different fruit and vegetables when you go to the shops, sing nursery rhymes during bath time and ask questions while you’re out and about – ‘Look at the big, black cloud. Do you think it’s going to rain?’
Casually model how to say things rather than correcting your child’s language or asking them to repeat words. Respond to what they’ve said by adding an extra descriptive word to help to develop their vocabulary – such as if your child says ‘dog’, respond by saying that it’s a ‘spotty dog’ or a ‘barking dog’.
Turn the radio off and play observation games or sing nursery rhymes and songs while you drive to pre-school or clubs, or tell silly stories while you’re on the bus. Sitting down to dinner as a family – with a no-technology rule, applicable to both children and adults – whenever possible will not only reinforce good eating habits but also encourage communication and give you chance to relax and chat about the day.
Remember it’s never too early to start reading to your child – from simple board books to picture books and longer chapter books – and it can help to develop language and early literacy skills. Snuggling up with a book is great, especially at bedtime, but sharing a book while you’re waiting for an older sibling to finish their dance class or while the dinner is in the oven is also possible. Above all, just listen and talk to each other.