Your child spoke. You answered. And silence followed.
How can you turn a 1-2 and it’s over conversation into much more?
Put a conversation stretcher into action and see what happens.
What’s a conversation stretcher? A conversation stretcher is an answer intended to create more conversation, instead of closing a conversation. Your child hears and uses more words with a conversation stretcher.
And it’s easy to do. Here are some examples:
Can you tell me more about that?
This simple reply is a straight-forward invitation for more talking and fits nicely into almost any conversation. Maybe he’ll give more description or more details–it’s open-ended, so it’s up to him. The message is clear that you want to hear more.
When you don’t quite understand what your young child just told you, this is also a quick probe to get more information without frustrating him. This works much better than, “I don’t know what you mean.” He knows you are listening and are inviting him to continue talking.
Tell me your ideas!
Does your child like to ask a lot of “Why? But…why?” questions? This can be a great response to those why questions that don’t have a clear answer. This alternative to giving a short (and unsatisfactory) response pushes the question back to your child for more thinking. Just because she asked you why, doesn’t mean she doesn’t have ideas of her own on the subject. You may be surprised at the response you get!
Can you think of a reason?
Talking about reasons can start early. When you ask about a possible reason or cause for something that happened, your child is challenged to think about the past–and an event he most likely did not see. That’s not easy!
Thinking and talking about possible reasons also gives practice juggling multiple ideas.
Example: While taking a walk together, your child notices a small shoe on the sidewalk.
Child: There’s a shoe!
Adult: A shoe! Can you think of a reason why there’s a shoe on the sidewalk?
Child: I think somebody lost it!
Adult: How do you think it was lost?
Child: A baby riding in a stroller kicked hard and it came off.
Adult: Could be! What else might have happened?
Child: Maybe somebody was carrying a baby and the shoe fell off the baby’s foot.
Adult: That happens a lot! What else?
Child: Maybe it fell out of the diaper bag.
Why is the shoe really there? Who knows! Practicing with thinking about why or how something might have happened doesn’t mean you have to solve the puzzle. The answer may not be clear, but the value of thinking and talking about their thinking is unmistakeable.
Instead of answering and ending a conversation, try a conversation stretcher to put a few more words into your child’s day.
Your child spoke. You answered…and more conversation follows! It’s a win-win.
What other examples of conversation stretchers do you use?