Contingent talk is an important skill to develop as an adult, and has been proven to aid children in language development. But what exactly is contingent talk? To explain simply: it is when an adult notices was the child has become interested in and then starts to talk to them about it. For instance, if a baby picks up a building block an adult may start talking to them, “Oh that’s a big block! It’s very colourful isn’t it? Bright red like a fire engine maybe? Are you going to build something with the block?”
We hear these kinds of interactions all the time, but let’s have a think about why we use contingent talk and how it it important…
Contingent talk can be especially helpful during a babies ninth to eighteenth month, when they are curious and investigating the world around them and learning about what the words we use around them mean. The language skills babies develop during this time will go on to serve them when they begin to interact with other children in nursery or primary school.
It has also been found that children from a socially disadvantaged background hear, on an average daily basis, less contingent talk. This can have an impact on their language development and it is therefore vital that their experience in nursery settings can help to improve this.
So contingent talk is very important indeed! Here are some tips for implementing it in your practice:
Imagine yourself at the gloop, talk about what is happening now, in the moment. Don’t be tempted to add “Remember when we had it blue?” or “We could make it red tomorrow.”
Imagine it to be a little like a commentary. A little like a voice over in a movie. Remember not to talk too much. Consider when the talk is helpful and don’t be tempted to interrupt the attention and concentration of your little ones.
Ensure you leave time between comments for the little one to reflect on what you are saying.
If you have any thoughts to share about your experiences with contingent talk, you can tag us on instagram @adventureswithalicesharp!