Children are often curious about the world around them. Teachers can make the most of this natural curiosity by engaging children in conversations about the objects or activities that have captured their attention. By tuning in and talking to children about whatever is holding their attention, adults have an opportunity to support children’s language development by responding to their interests. Teachers can use these moments to support children’s language by initiating high-quality conversations that include rich vocabulary, give children information, or ask children to provide information.
What Research Shows
- Children are more likely to learn the names for objects in which they are interested than for objects of less interest.17
- Children whose parents talk about what the child is focused on have more advanced vocabularies than children whose parents try to redirect children’s attention.19
Working with Infants and Toddlers
- Notice on what the child is focused and ask open-ended questions like “What…?”, “Why…?” and “How…?” Pause for a response. Provide the answers for preverbal children.
- Provide information about the object or activity the child is focused on by commenting or describing the object or activity.
- Introduce the child to new words related to the object of his or her focus. Explain the meaning of the new word.
- If possible, provide a demonstration of the different ways the object the child is focusing on may be used (e.g., “You’re rolling the blue ball. Let’s see if we can bounce the ball too.”).