Language Nutrition: Keeping Your Child’s Brain Healthy and Strong

Families

We all know proper nutrition and regular exercise are very important for our children’s bodies to grow (and stay) strong and healthy. But did you know nutrition and exercise also play a big part in the growth of your child’s brain, language, and learning? This TALK READ PLAY theme focuses on some Nutrition & Exercise learning activities to keep your child’s body and brain growing healthy and strong.

Kiddos need healthy food – lots of fruits, veggies, and healthy proteins – with a little junk food and sweets thrown in here and there. They also need that food in the right amounts – not enough stunts growth, too much isn’t good either (especially of the ‘bad’ stuff). Just like food nourishes your child’s growing body, TALKing, READing, and PLAYing nourishes their growing brain and language skills. In fact, people have started using a new term to stress the importance of language for our growing children: language nutrition – they learn best when they get enough of it. The words we use actually help them learn the language and literacy skills they need to be ready for school. Just like with food nutrition, how good and how much language we feed them is important. But unlike food nutrition, giving your child the best language nutrition doesn’t cost any more. In fact, it’s completely free! 

Language nutrition is all about children hearing lots of good language in ways that help them learn new words to use. How do we do that? The secret (#notsecret) is all those wonderful two-way conversations we have with our kiddos when we talk, play, and share stories with them. Conversations with our wee ones aren’t much different than the ones we have with adults. You and the other person take turns sharing your thoughts about what the other said.

Check out this video of some Cox Campus friends from our
free Pop-Up Early Learning sharing conversation tips!

Like a good game of tennis or volleyball, a good conversation goes back-and-forth. One side serves. The other returns. And the more times it goes back-and-forth, the better the game (or conversation) is. This is why experts call them serve-and-return exchanges. Children love them and they’re a great way to exercise their brains!

Keep these things in mind as you ‘serve up’ language nutrition with TALK READ PLAY:

  • Anyone can serve. Sometimes you serve, sometimes you return. Look for your child’s ‘serves’ and respond to them (experts call this tuning in). Children ‘serve’ in lots of ways, even before they start using words – and how they serve will change as they get older. 
  • Anything can be a conversation starter. Did they see or point at a hawk while you’re playing tag outside? Return their serve by talking about it – what it looks like, what it’s doing, what it eats, where it lives. Burning off some energy with a dance party? Talk about the moves as you do them – “Shake, shake your hands! Stomp, stomp your feet!” Or do this as you take turns making up sports- or animal-themed dances (maybe a basketball shuffle or a monkey jig). Having dinner together? Talk about how yummy and scrumptious the food is or what you’re going to do after dinner. With kids around, there’s ALWAYS something to talk about! 
  • Strive for five. Taking turns in our conversation is super important (experts call them conversational turns). Try to go back-and-forth with your child 5 times (#StriveForFive). Not sure what to say or how to return their serve? You can talk about what your child is doing, seeing, or feeling (experts call that narration), or help their vocabulary grow by using new, bigger words (lifting language). It might feel weird in the beginning (especially if they’re not using words yet), but the more you flex those muscles and practice, the easier it will get (kind of like good exercise and nutrition habits, huh?).

Find more fun TALK READ PLAY activities about Nutrition & Exercise for infants/toddlers and preschoolers in this handy, downloadable resource

Now, drop and give me 5 (back-and-forths in your conversation)!

1 Comment

  1. Ryan Lee-James

    Love the #StriveForFive – so easy to remember!

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