How Conversation Can Support the Development of Language Skills

Conversations with your young ones

— by Kim Williams, Grade 4 Teacher

As a parent, I am always looking for ways to strengthen my connection with my kids and support their development. As a teacher, parents often ask what they can do at home to support their child’s learning. Although, structures around homework, daily reading and math facts practice make up the majority of my advise, I am beginning to understand the significance of daily discussions around a meal, a walk or before bed. A time when parents build connection with children, share stories from the day, talk about current events, beliefs and debate issues. Movies, picture books, plays and trips to the museum can be springboards for conversation. Talking about life with our children can support them to read with comprehension and learn to form ideas for writing.

Discussions support language skills by:

  • remembering experiences and building memory
  • developing vocabulary around topics or ideas
  • considering more than one side of an issue or debate
  • developing an understanding of and building vocabulary around emotions
  • building connections between the child’s
  • experiences and the experiences of others
  • building empathy
  • holding conflicting ideas or beliefs
  • asking questions
  • problem solving

Engaging our children’s attention can be a challenge. Questions like “What did you learn at school today?” can be met with resistance and a disengaged, “Nothing”. Try to avoid questions with a ‘right’ answer. Begin by recalling a shared experience or sharing an anecdote from your own day.

Here are some conversation starters:

  • I thought of you today when…
  • After a movie- I wonder if you saw yourself in any of the characters? Which part of that movie would you leave out? That movie reminded me of (another movie or book or person)
  • I wonder why…?
  • What do you think of…?
  • Do you think its fair that…?
  • Would you rather…?
  • Where in the world would you go if you could go anywhere?
  • How did you solve that problem?
  • When you were a baby, you…

The secure context of a strong relationship provides a unique opportunity for children to question, debate and hold uncertainty. When parents model curiosity, empathy, problem solving and mixed feelings, children can follow, deepening their knowledge and their ability to process complex ideas.