Self Talk

We’re spending a lot more time with our children these days, and are no doubt communicating with them constantly throughout the day. And in turn, they are learning how to express themselves. Supporting speech and language development is the primary way that a young child develops strong foundational skills and concepts in all learning domains. To maximize each child’s speech and language our teachers use strategies called “self talk” and “parallel talk” that can easily be replicated at home. Self talk is when an adult describes what he or she is thinking and doing, in real time. There is never an expectation that the child will respond. Examples include:

  • I am going to sit down at the table now to eat. Let’s see what is on my plate. I have.. I want to eat … I think I will use a fork. That is better than using my hands. What do you think?

  • I am putting on my shoes so I can go outside. First I will put this foot in my shoe and tie it. Now the other foot goes in the other shoe. Okay I am ready to walk outside.

  • I am mixing the butter and sugar to make our cookies. I like to smell it. Do you want to smell the batter?

  • We need to clean up the toys. Let’s put the red car on the shelf and the green doll in the basket.

  • It is time to make dinner. Let’s see what we have to cook tonight. It is chicken. I need a pan to cook the chicken. Let’s see what I have to do next- The recipe says… etc.

  • Let’s see what the grocery list says. It says we need blueberries, I wonder where the blueberries are in the store. The list says we also need ice cream. Here is the ice cream, see how cold it is. etc. .

Parallel talk is another technique you can use to support receptive and expressive language by describing what the child is doing, seeing or thinking. Using parallel talk is like being a news commentator describing the event you see before you. Examples include:

  • I see you are holding your bottle with both hands, good job!

  • I see that you are putting the yellow block on top. Here goes the green one next to it. The tower is getting taller!

  • You seem to be struggling with the train track. Let’s see if we can figure out how to connect the train track pieces ...

When you start to use these communication strategies, you might feel a little awkward since it is a different way of talking- describing not questioning. And speaking is only part of it, you must also be aware of your actions and your child’s actions. As you get the hang of it you will become adept at being a good describer.

If you decide to give this style of talking a try, remember you want to find a balance. If you are constantly talking it may be too much language and your child may start to tune you out. I recommend you intersperse these strategies throughout the day so your child has plenty of time to explore independently.