How to Play with Your Little Ones When You Are Away
Carly Shuler is the co-founder of Kindoma. She has more than 10 years of experience in children’s media and toys, working with leading organizations such as Spin Master and The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. A recognized thought leader in the industry, she has authored a number of renowned reports, including D is for Digital, theiLearn Series and The ABC’s of Kids & e-Reading. Carly holds a Master’s of Education in Technology, Innovation and Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a Bachelor’s of Commerce degree from McGill.
- Try doing an activity while video-chatting when you’re away from your little ones! Drawing or reading, are fun ways to keep your child’s attention.
- Have your child fill in the blank at the end of a sentence to help reinforce language.
- Ask questions! The 5 W’s, who, what, when, where, and why, help expand your child’s vocabulary. Also, try asking open-ended questions such as asking what is happening in their drawing or illustration in a story.
- Throughout ask questions about what’s going on in the story. Let your little one show you they are grasping the plot of the book.
Whether you’re across town or across the world, it’s particularly hard to be away from your littlest loved ones. To help families engage in play and stay connected even when parents are away, Carly Shuler, co-founder of Kindoma, shares a few tips.
Toddlers and preschoolers are filled with imagination and wonder so magical that you don’t want to miss anything. Furthermore, it’s a time when the best thing you can do for your child’s learning is talk with them ... but at that age, communication is often difficult!
If you’ve ever tried to talk on the phone to a 3-year-old, you know what I mean. Video chat is better, yet still rarely lasts more than three minutes. The reason for this is simple. Phone and video chat revolve around conversation ... but young children don’t want to chat – they want to play!
How do you play when you’re miles away? It’s a dilemma many families face. Over 70 million grandparents live away from their grandkids. A staggering 1 in 3 children live away from a biological parent. And this doesn’t even include all the parents, myself included, who at least occasionally have to travel for work (or fun!).
Well, that’s the problem we’re trying to tackle at Kindoma. Five years of research showed us that video chat combined with a shared activity such as reading or drawing make distant interactions longer, more engaging, and ultimately more meaningful for both the parent/grandparent and child.
Our shared reading app, Kindoma Storytime, allows children and their loved ones to read together at a distance. Within the video chat app, kids and grownups can read a book together and see where the other is pointing. This shared experience of pointing is important, since children learn most from books (or most things) when they are actively involved — a process called dialogic reading. Whether together or apart, how we read to preschoolers is more important than what we read to them.
In dialogic reading, the adult engages the child in a back and forth dialog. The key to effective dialogic reading is prompting children to say things – a particularly important concept when engaging a child at a distance.
“Video chat combined with a shared activity such as reading or drawing make distant interactions longer, more engaging, and ultimately more meaningful.”
Here are five types of prompts you can use to engage your child in a book or image, represented by the acronym CROWD:
- Completion prompts: These prompts use the classic “fill-in-the-blank.” Parents leave words out and get children to fill in the word. For example: “This is a cat. He has a ____”, letting the child fill in the blank with “hat.” These prompts help children grasp the structure of language.
- Recall prompts: These prompts get children to recount what has happened in the story. For example, you can ask, “Can you tell me what happened to the three little pigs?” Recall prompts help children grasp story plot and event sequencing.
- Open-ended prompts: In books with rich illustrations, you may ask a child, “Tell me what’s happening on this page.” Model using the pointing finger for the child and encourage the child to point to things as they are discussing them. These prompts help promote expressive fluency and attention to detail.
- Wh- prompts: Asking kids questions that start with what, when, where and why around illustrations helps to develop a child’s vocabulary. For example, asking, “What material is this pig using to build his house?” while pointing at the house.
- Distancing prompts: These prompts help kids relate images and words in the stories to their own lives. While pointing to an image of an alligator, for example, say, “Remember when we went to the zoo and saw alligators? What other animals did we see?”
Whatever tools you use, remember how important it is to stay in touch when apart! Tap into the power of play to bridge distance and play together ... even when you can’t actually be together.