Parents seem to talk constantly. Yesterday, I was in a relatively full elevator in very tall building with a mom and her approximately 15-month-old daughter. The mom talked to the daughter the entire trip up the elevator.
Mom: “Is the door closing?”
Mom: “That lady has a pretty hat, doesn’t she”
Daughter: “Yeah. Hat.”
Mom: “Do you want a hat like that?”
Mom: “The elevator is going up, up, up.”
Daughter: “Yeah. Up.”
Mom: “The door is opening”
Mom: “Time to get out”
Daughter: “Yeah. Out.”
Many parents begin talking to their children before they are even born and they just keep right on talking… forever! And while many teenagers think that their parents talk entirely too much, all of this talking is actually very good for development.
According to Lev Vygotsky- a psychologist from the early 1900’s- social interaction and scaffolding are particularly important for children’s cognitive development. Vygotsky is probably best known for two terms “zone of proximal development” and “scaffolding”. According to Vygotsky, the “zone of proximal development” is a period in which a child can almost but not completely perform a task independently. But with the help of someone more advanced or knowledgable, like a parent, the child can complete the task. For example, the little girl on the elevator was just learning to speak. She clearly had a few words and she was beginning to engage in conversation with her mom. Her mother was clearly working within her child’s zone of proximal development by asking her questions using words that the child knew and some words that the child could say or repeat, like “hat”, “up” and “out”. The little girls’ mother was scaffolding her daughters language learning. Like the scaffolding that is used to help workers to reach higher up when they build a building, this mother was supporting the child’s learning by prompting her with questions that had answers that she knew the child had the words to answer but that were slightly challenging and helped her daughter grow and continue to practice and develop her language.