As a woman, a mom, a friend, and [what I like to think] a good story-teller, there’s something that I’m particularly good it. Exaggerating.
I exaggerate the most recent tiff with my sister when I tell my husband about it, and I absolutely exaggerate about what time my husband came home from happy hour when I complain to my sister about it. See? Goes both ways.
So what’s this got to do with baby and toddler language development?
Let me ask you this first… What gets your kiddo’s attention? Fire truck sirens? That moment when you screech out loud because you’ve burned dinner or they’re enjoying some good ‘ole fashion fun water play in the toilet?
Kids love exaggeration! We’re using big voices, big emotions all over our face, dramatic pauses and gasps, and the moment is filled with excitement. And… BOOM-BAM! You’ve immediately got their attention. They’re wide-eyed, making eye contact, and interested in you because of their innate curiosity and need to know (kind of like me and my embarrassing Bravo reality TV addiction).
Keeping your child’s attention is actually key to learning. They’ve got to be engaged, responsive, fascinated, and drawn to what you’re doing. So guess what… you have to be interesting.
Oh the pressure to entertain our own children!
Studies show that how well a child is able to maintain their attention at age 4, can predict math and reading achievement. And in my experience, the best way to keep their attention is to exaggerate.
For example… you’re building a block tower for the 354th time today. Your child is losing interest and you can see them fading, eyeing the next toy in the corner. Instead…. you exaggerate the shakiness of your hand as you place the next block atop, shoot a look of extreme worry in your kid’s direction, pleading for assistance to stabilize your exhausted hand… and then the worst happens. The tower collapses, crushing every block beneath it, crashing into the couch, and YOUR TOE. Your precious toe! Catastrophe.
Congratulations, you’ve just created an incredibly fun, entertaining, engaging moment with your child, and I’ll bet they’re back begging for more.
All it takes is a little exaggeration… or maybe I just watch too much reality TV.