When Kinderpillar, a Delhi-based playschool, informed us that Ellen Booth Church, their early childhood curriculum expert would be visiting India for the first time, we sensed a great opportunity to facilitate a meeting of minds. Ellen has three decades’ experience as a college educator at top institutes in the USA, is an educational consultant to leading media companies, and is the author of several books on early childhood learning.
Meena Sivaraman, a member of ParentEdge’s Panel of Experts, is an early childhood development specialist with three decades’ experience in running stimulating, engaging day care centres for young children. She has mentored many young parents in nurturing their children’s intellects. A sparkling discussion on the diverse aspects of nurturing young children (from television programmes to building creativity) ensued, and we will provide you with nuggets of Ellen’s and Meena’s wisdom in some features in this issue as well as in upcoming ones.
Here are some interesting extracts:
ParentEdge: Many young parents are anxious about nurturing language skills of growing children. How can they do this effectively?
Ellen: The simple thing to do is to talk to children. Conversations with children are not happening now, as much as they were earlier. Children learn the models of speech from conversations. Open ended questions help enhance language skills as much as they help in critical thinking – For example, “Why is the sky blue?”
One of my favourite techniques is to choose a new word for the week. We begin on a Monday and then we use the word all the time. So the word ‘extraordinary’ will be used in different contexts – “What an extraordinary breakfast,” “Let us go for an extraordinary walk.” Even young children become familiar with long words easily through this technique.
The other technique to nurture language skills is to sing; you do not need to know many songs, just make up songs as you go! When children are young, they think you are the best singer in the world, so capitalise on this and introduce new words as you sing.
ParentEdge: Meena, could you comment on the Indian context, and how it is important to nurture multi lingual skills?
Meena: Before addressing multi lingual skills, I would like to touch upon language and speech itself.
I know parents who say, “My child is 2 ½ years old and does not talk.” Most often it is because, when the child points to a cookie, the parent gives it instead of encouraging the child to say “I want a cookie. Imagination is a vital tool in encouraging language skills. I used to walk a child to pre-school and we saw a monkey regularly at the same spot every day. I would encourage the child to talk by asking her, “What do you think the monkey ate for breakfast?” or if the monkey did not appear on one day, “Why do you think the monkey is late?”