A few weeks ago a parent of two toddlers came up to me and asked how she could use apps to encourage her children to talk. Here is an extended version of my answer to her.
During the language acquisition years of early childhood, young kids are building the neurology that impacts their future learning experiences. Within language development each new vocabulary word in a child's lexicon acts somewhat as a "location" where a given concept can be held, processed, and built upon.
Talking with young children is imperative, with plenty of current brain research and educational research that supports this notion. Speech and language therapists remind us that gesturing, reading, writing, and speaking are all part of language functioning. Therefore, we want to speak naturally with children and build bridges to concepts within each of these areas.
For those parents wanting touchscreen activities that promote moments of conversation similar to those experienced over a compelling picture book, work of art, or child accomplishment, here are a few types of apps that I find particularly effective for verbal discussion:
1. Personalizing an App Together:
Out-A-Bout (by Fred Rogers Center) is an example of apps that enable parents and children to work together to personalize a child's app/storybook. This app not only promotes parent-child interaction, but also encourages physical activity, outdoor play, and early literacy. Yay!
2. Home-time Discussions:
The wide range of apps in the Juddly series (by Mrs. Judd's Games) happily fit this category; they empower children to reach out to busy parents throughout their day, sending small app moments of interest to family that also act as markers and conversation starters for when all are together again. Keep talking!
3. Science Conversations:
Apps that are rich in science topics are fantastic for encouraging conversation because they truly interest adult and child alike. The current push toward STEM education is here, so let's talk Science, Technology, Engineering and Math with kids. The inspiring line of apps created by the talented team of Peapod Labs fit well within this category for discussions with very young children/students, whereas the NASA app inspires learners of any age!
4. Family Word Games:
The app called What's The Word? (by RedSpell) is an example of the many word games that families can play together. I selected this specific app because it represents the exact activity that speech & language screeners use in schools to help diagnose children's language functioning. Notice its careful attention to word category. Very helpful!
5. Informative Talks that Help:
Sometimes apps can aid conversations about topics that concern children. Since apps are mobile, you can have them on the ready when you need to talk about such things as security routines in an airport with Smart Fish: Frequent Flyer - Teach Kids about Airplane Travel (by SocialBug Labs) or Toca Doctor (by Toca Boca) when health issues arise.
Conversation helps :-)