SMALL TALK: Why it pays to create a ‘language-rich' environment by chatting, gossiping and jokin

It’s easy to assume, when we’re in the company of children, that they either aren’t interested in, or able to appreciate, the kind of small talk we might make if it were an adult in the room.

Quite on the contrary, however, as there is evidence that chatting with children about anything and everything can actually be a good thing for their learning and development.

Yes, it might feel somewhat one sided when your prime audience only has early language skills, BUT…there is much evidence that informal and spontaneous chatting, gossiping and joking creates whats known as a ‘language-rich environment.

In the early childhood years, this can be invaluable as a way of growing vocabulary, not to mention providing moments of presence that nurture the parent/child relationship and facilitate bonding. As well as this, there’s evidence that demonstrating the art of conversation regularly might even help give children the necessary tools they need for their future relationships to thrive.

It doesn’t really matter what you talk about (it could be your weekend plans, the weather or what you’re planning on cooking for dinner), the key thing is ENGAGEMENT.

Specifically, by talking about everyday quandaries (eg. what to do with the leftover vegetables), you are inviting children to problem solve with you... a useful skill in itself. As well, sharing stories of daily challenges overcome sends a message of resilience and confidence. Observational conversation, on the other hand, can encourage children to tune into their senses and surroundings in a way that they might not otherwise.

All of these benefits - along with the fact that 86% to 98% of the words used by a child by the age of three are derived from their parents’ vocabularies - are a good enough incentive to recognise and seize the opportunities for conversation that might otherwise pass us by.