Doing life with little ones can either enrich their development or thwart it. Consider these two scenarios:
Bundle up baby and get her into the car seat.
Off to the Post office. Back out of the car seat. Standing in line, chattering with her about the line and clerks and stamp photos on the wall. She connects with those strangers in front and behind her. “That’s the postal clerk. We need stamps!” Back into the car seat.
Gas is getting low. Out of the car to activate the pump. Talking with her through the window as she watches me enter info and card into the gas pump and fill the car. “Look at that big truck! Whoooeee! That Gasoline smells stinky! Here we go.”
Hardware store. Onto your hip she goes—all the while, talking. Talking about all of the fabulous toys for grown-ups. She reaches for a shiny keyring. “Oh, you like that pretty round key chain, do ya?! We have one of those at home. We use it to organize the shed keys.” Colors, textures and sizes attract her attention. Functions are the subject of more conversation. She spots a cat on the counter. “Ooooh, look at this! It’s a cute kitty.” I invite her to pet it. Nope! So, we move to the counter where the man demonstrates how the new wrench works. Clerks and other customers make a fuss and engage with my angel.
Back on the road…”The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round…”
Grocery time! Set her into the cart. She’s pointing at everything. “Whuh da?,” she says, the lift in her intonation signaling that, even though she has no conventional language, she is clearly asking a question. “That’s a cantaloupe! We had that for breakfast. You love cantaloupe, remember? It’s orange on the inside…like those orange carrots over there.” Every aisle offers a myriad of items that invoke her questions and opportunities for engaging answers.
Accompanying a loving family member running common errands offers a comprehensive education for little ones. There are seemingly unending cascades of new things and people to talk with and think about and explore. All the colors and sounds. All of the relational words. Dozens of opportunities for the baby to meet new people who are like and unlike her family in so many ways. Accents, sights and smells that fill the senses.
Back home for books-and-talk time … and a nap…for both of us!
Everyday experiences can compound to become critical early learning. With each experience, she’s a few steps closer to grasping fluent mother tongue and complex concepts.
The convenience of online shopping! Chain store websites, USPS.com for stamps, scrolling through fashion trends, upcoming concerts and sports events. “I’ll be there in a sec, Hon!” Texting. Chatting with pals on the phone as you push her stroller, she is facing forward, no one engaging with her.
Quick jaunt to the grocery to pick up the order we filled out online while the baby was in her playpen. Drive up. Call in. Out comes the clerk who waves at your baby before loading our order in the car, then off we go.
Home again. “Can you work that puzzle, Sweetie?” Sharing photos with friends from the Super Bowl party…and that terrific video of the cat and the baby goat wrestling. “Almost time for your favorite show, Sweetie! Are you thirsty?” Clean and straighten the house while the little one gazes at the TV.
Bringing up a culturally comfortable and linguistically fluent child can be utterly exhausting.
Keeping her amused and seemingly happy all day is way easier.
To talk or not to talk. The choice is ours.