Summertime is a wonderful time to get in some quality time with your kids. One of the simplest and best ways to connect is good ol’ conversation. Conversation, is not only a great way to get closer with your kids, but it can actually change the biology of your children’s brains. According to a collaborative study between MIT and Harvard School of Education on the effects of back-and-forth dialogue (also known as conversational turns), found that “conversation drives literacy skills and cognitive development across all socioeconomic levels… It’s a powerful, actionable, and simple tool for all parents to use” and that “the number of conversational turns accounted for differences in brain physiology, as well as for differences in language skills including vocabulary, grammar, and verbal reasoning.”
Conversation create many teachable moments, and the best part of it, is you don’t need a plan, a lot of time, or money to provide rich, meaningful conversational experiences. It is also a great way to help them develop the interpersonal skills your children will need throughout school and their lives. Sometimes, as adults we get so busy that we forget to stop, power off our phones, put away the ‘to do’ lists and just talk to our kids.
Here are some great tips and conversation starters if and when you need them:
- Use open-ended questions that have no right or wrong answer: why do you think… what do you think will happen… what do you imagine would happen if…
- In the grocery store this morning my son asked, “If you could have unlimited “something” (besides money) what would it be and why?” (He chose unlimited food—what can I say, the boy loves to snack, and I picked airline miles!)
- If you could only eat one food forever, what would you eat? Why?
- Where would you never want to go? Why? What would have to change for you to want live there?
- If you were going to a deserted island, what three items would you take? Why? A number of other questions will arise, I guarantee it!
- If you could, would you want to go to space? Why or why not?
- What are you most scared of? Why?
- What would be the best thing you could do for someone else? Why haven’t you done it? How could you do it?
- If you could be anything, what would you be? What do you think you would like about it? What do you think would be bad about it?
- If you could live as an animal, what animal would you choose, why?
- What if you had to live as a plant? What kind of plant would you be?
- If you could live in any other country, where would it be? Why?
- And go ahead and use big words! Because these conversations happen within context including body language, facial expression, and relevant topics, children more easily comprehend their meaning and begin to store them into their usable vocabulary. Hey, while you’re at it, why not look up a cool new word each week, too!
The idea for Alien Books came to me when I was trying to think of different ways to build connection and inspire rich conversations with my son Charlie. Now you, your child or grandchild can have great conversations inspired by Missions with Wilbur and Alien Books. The missions with Wilbur are not only a ton of fun and a great way to spend time with your children or grandchildren, but they provide many opportunities to engage in rich dialogue surrounding amazing cultures (and, hey, they even help shape your child’s brain).