Did You Know #8

Interactions and Owling


That majority of crucial language learning occurs before children are able to speak words? 

In the early years, even in the first days of life, infants develop important skills needed to become future conversation partners. 

As the closest people, parents and guardians have the most influence and impact on their child’s learning and development progress. 

Therefore, it is important to have regular quality interactions between both, to encourage the process and reach speech, language and communication milestones. 

Although infants cannot speak or construct sentences, they express themselves and communicate through making sounds, moving their bodies, and maintaining eye contact. 

By engaging with these cues, parents reassure that their child’s attempts are valued and encouraged. 

As children get older, they will develop their communication to include words, sentences and gestures. 

Studies prove that when exposed to language and interacted with, children grasp communication skills more quickly and effectively as compared to children who only heard language being spoken around them. 

Quality interactions mean conscious decisions and time given to focus on developing these skills from the caregivers. 

A general interaction starts by engaging in what your child is doing and voicing their actions or asking leading questions. An example of a leading question might be, “What game are you playing?” 

It is important to then give the child time to respond in whatever way feels comfortable for them. It might take a little longer for your child to reply but counting to 10 gives them space to understand their cue. 

By repeating this pattern, it is likely that your child will start engaging with the conversation and communicate. This could be through sounds or non-verbally through gestures such as pointing. 

Plan interaction with your child and think before you act: 

  1. Always be led by your child and what they want to communicate 
  1. Remember to get down to your child’s level and face to face if possible  
  1. Remove distractions and focus on one toy or one play activity 
  1. Engage them using something they are interested in, avoid persisting with your own agenda! 

And we suggest using OWLing 

OObserve. Observe your child’s interests and what they focus their attention on. Sit near them and join in the activity. By choosing to start a conversation around something they enjoy it is more likely that your child will be more interested in talking about it and trying to express themselves. 

W Wait. Wait for your child to speak or give them enough time to respond to what you say. As a newer skill your child will need more space to be comfortable and form an answer to what you say or ask. 

LListen. Watch your child’s cues and follow their lead in conversations. Copy their sounds, narrate their actions and praise their attempts at speaking. Show your interest in the conversation by keeping eye contact and copying how they play. 


Read more about this topic:

Social Interaction Facilitates Word Learning in Preverbal
Infants: Word–Object Mapping and Word Segmentation

Why Interaction Must Come Before Language

Supporting Language Development in the Early Years



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