You may have heard that your words have the power to grow your child’s brain and that children who are successful in kindergarten have heard far more words in their first years than their less successful peers. All of this is true, but it’s not just the number of words that matters… the richness and quality of those words is important, too!
WHO: The great thing about this strategy is that you can use it with children at any age and any stage, from beginning babblers to chatter boxes using complex sentences.
WHAT: When your child says something, comment back by repeating what your child says but with an additional word or two to make the utterance richer, more detailed, or more grammatically correct.
WHERE: Anywhere! But remember that your child will hear you best in a quiet place.
WHEN: PLUS ONE talk can be used any time of day. If you’re folding socks, add more words about the patterns or colors or sizes of the socks. If you’re walking to the park, talk about the colors of the leaves and flowers you see. If you’re on tech way to school, describe the vehicles you see on the road or imagine where they might be going. Once you get into the habit of stretching your child’s language, PLUS ONE talk will become as easy as, well, adding one plus one!
WHY: Research (see Quittener et al., 2013) shows that when adults in the baby’s environment provide more cognitive stimulation (brain growing speech with new and more complex words), children’s overall language growth improves!
HOW: For example, if a baby says, “Ba!” for “ball,” you’d say, “A big ball!” to extend what he originally said and show that describing words (adjective: big) can be used to talk about things (noun: ball).
For an older child, you might respond to, “He’s running on the track” with, “He’s running quickly on the track” to show how to make an action word (verb: running) more specific by adding a word to tell how the action was done (adverb: quickly).