by Meghan Fitzgerald
If you are like me, you feel this conundrum most acutely when you play with kids. If play is the mechanism through which children learn, how can we facilitate without directing? The way we use language is a key part of this process. Before I became a parent, I learned a lot about how to talk with kids about their learning—how to dialog with kids about their thinking, use inquiry to help them spark new ideas, and use “sportscasting” and narration to value their actions and interests without giving direction or judgment.
All of that said, I still get hung up on an even simpler question—Should I engage them in conversation at all? When we ask a child who is deeply engaged in play to talk with us, we are asking a lot. The younger the child, the greater the cognitive load required to listen, process and generate a response. The deeper the child’s engagement, the more potentially distracting our outreach can be.
To follow is some advice that has helped me become much more judicious about how and, perhaps more importantly, whether or not to use language to support a child at play: