parenting

Teaching Toddlers Who Are Learning Language

educational tv failsWe have become a nation of “parkers.”

What’s a parker? We park in front of the television or we park in front of the computer screen and as a consequence, we have greatly reduced our interactions with each other.

Even young children can become parkers early in life because parents are tired, busy, distracted, maybe working more than one job, and also dealing with their own issues. Often the path of least resistance for many families is to park the kids in front of the television or in front of the computer screen as a way of keeping them busy, entertained, and safe.

The good news is that there is more educational programming available than ever before. So it’s hardly a wasteland, in terms of educational opportunity, for the discerning parent.

But do educational venues on TV have the same language teaching value for a young child as personal interaction with parents?

A study released September 24, 2013, from the University of Washington, Temple University, and the University of Delaware, shows that the answer is a definitive no.

The psychologists conducting the study compared the results of instructing two-year-olds in three different ways. The first group watched pre-recorded video of a person teaching them. The second group listened to live instruction. The third group received interactive instruction via Skype.

The study results showed that children only learned new words when conversing with a person or having a live video chat.

What made the difference?

Children learn best when they have back-and-forth social interaction with another person.

The children that learned in real-time social interaction were even able to use the newly learned vocabulary to identify actions when different people performed them. There was genuine brain integration of the new words.

This new information offers adults one more good reason to make the time to have meaningful social interaction with the young ones, even toddlers, in their lives. Lap reading and talking about what’s been read is one great way parents can help get the next generation off to a good start. Don’t forget that the number of words children learn before they start school has a direct bearing on how well they perform in school. See my earlier post about the power of teaching children many words.

So if you need to park your kids in front of the TV, go ahead. We all do it. But be sure to buy out some time every day to interact with your kids and to teach them something in person.

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