‘Can I call you back later?’ is possibly one of the best pieces of advice I could give to parents and carers of young children and this is the reason why.
I am not the first, and I hope I won’t be the last, to advocate for limiting the use of mobile phones. With smartphones being used for social networking, gaming (I could go on) they are encroaching more and more into our daily routines, which I would argue is to the detriment of family life.
I was enjoying a lovely walk with my husband at the weekend; we were not the only ones. It seemed that everyone was trying to take advantage of the beautiful sunny weather. There were lots of dog walkers and lots of families out and about too.
Early on in my walk, my attention was drawn to a young mother pushing a toddler in a pushchair. Her little boy was trying desperately to get her attention. He tried calling out, pointing, twisting round to see if he could see her. He ended up becoming very upset, started to cry but the young mother paid no attention. There was no conversation between them. She was too busy talking on her mobile phone.
We met several other children being pushed in pushchairs, always facing away from their mothers and all but one of the adults were talking on their mobile phones, making no conversation with the child in their care.
Then we met an older lady, who I assumed may have been the child’s grandmother and what a contrast! She and the little girl were talking the whole time to each other; it was lovely to hear. The lady was pointing out things as they ware walking. The little girl was obviously enjoying the walk, enjoying the interaction, enjoying seeing everything around her but what was more important and what the little girl would be unaware of: she was developing her spoken vocabulary, which is crucial for literacy development and educational success.
The following statistics taken from ICAN’s website (ican.org.uk) illustrate just how important it is to have rich conversations, using vocabulary that stretches and expands the knowledge of our young children.
- By 22 months – a child’s language development can predict outcomes at age 26
- By 2 years – 75% of a child’s brain growth has occurred
- By ages 3-6 years – a child’s narrative skills are a powerful predictor of literacy skill at 8-12 years
- By 4 years – the difference in the number of words children from disadvantaged backgrounds hear is 19 million
- By 5 years – a child’s vocabulary will predict their educational success and outcomes at age 30
So my advice to adults, when spending time with their children is to do just that. If someone calls you on the phone simply say – Can I call you back later? – and carry on talking to your children.
Somehow we need to ensure all new parents appreciate just how important talking to young children really is. ICAN is a brilliant organisation, one that is trying to make a difference.