Engage with children for learning

How many times do you see people, both adults and children, highly engaged on phones and personal devices? They are connecting to activities and information.

But what is missing many times? They are not engaging with each other.

How many times to you see parents interacting with their children, only to suddenly break away to answer their cell phone? How many times is this interruption really important or even necessary?

What to do

Life has become very hectic with instant connections to friends, co-workers, Internet, games and videos. How can you manage all this and still make time with your children and grandchildren a priority?

Here’s an easy solution. Power off your phones or devices while engaging in activities. Put them out of site and out of mind. Children need our full attention and real one-to-one communication. One grandmother recently mentioned her annoyance at many mothers who are losing these precious experiences through so many cell phone interruptions. Her solution? She requires her family to turn off devices when they are together and put them away. Electronic devises are never invited to the table.

Why is this important?

Research supports talking directly to children to engage them in thoughtful conversation. Asking them critical questions is the way to develop language and vocabulary. What do you see? Then what happened? What kinds of colors? How many?

The advantages of good pre-school education have been in the news. But attention and conversation must start from birth. Studies are finding that even by 18 months children listen and learn words. This is how brain development occurs. Without it, children rapidly fall behind those who have the advantage of hearing parents read, talk to them, and engage in conversation. Since reading is talking written down, parents cannot expect teachers to suddenly perform miracles in first grade.

The degree of child development depends on strong communication for vocabulary development. Words that are spoken directly to infants while cuddling, reading, and play are what build vocabulary. Scientists think conversation develops the brain, intellect, and learning. Merely hearing words spoken on TV, video and radio do not have the same developmental effects.

Other ideas

You don’t need special times to talk to children. Everyday situations: waking, dressing, eating, doing errands, and playing are all great times for talking with children.

What about those electronic devices? Use them together. Share educational games and activities. Devices have all kinds of engaging media: pictures, sounds, apps, and educational videos about something you discussed.

Whatever families view, interact together with the media. They can be another opportunity to help young children develop their fullest potential.

For more ways to engage young children see grandparentsteachtoo.org, wnmufm.org, and Pinterest for the authors’ books, pod casts, and videos.

Editor’s note: Grandparents Teach ,Too is a non profit organization of elementary and preschool teachers from Marquette, Michigan. Writers include: Jan Sabin, Mary Davis, Jean Hetrick, Cheryl Anderegg, Esther Macalady, Colleen Walker, Fran Darling, and Iris Katers.Their mission since 2009 is to help parents, grandparents, and other caregivers of young children provide fun activities to help prepare young children for school and a life long love of learning. They are supported by Great Start, Parent Awareness of Michigan (PAM), Upper Peninsula Association for the Education of Young Children (UPAEYC), Northern Michigan School of Education, U.P. Children’s Museum, and NMU Center for Economic Education.