Nurturing Powerful Interactions During Early Childhood
How Parent-Child Interactions Can Affect Learning and Development
By Mary Mills
As I reminisce on my early years, the small and meaningful interactions with my primary caregivers come to mind right away. I still remember my mother incorporating a mini math lesson as we baked my grandmother’s famous sugar cookies. Different elements of early literacy skills were promoted during daily routines and activities. For example, phonological awareness was encouraged during walks on the farm as my father and I would listen for and identify sounds. Comprehension and vocabulary skills were enhanced by the questions and conversations that were had on a daily basis. With all of this being said, the interactions among children and the important adults in their life are critical and have lasting effects on their growth and development.
Defining Powerful Interactions?
Powerful interactions are those in which you intentionally connect with your children while guiding their learning by the conversations or activities offered. As parents nurture meaningful relationships in constant ways, they model how to learn and extend their thinking and learning. The ways in which you interact with your young children can have an immense impact on building their knowledge base.
The Importance of Powerful Interactions During Early Childhood
High-quality interactions among children and their primary caregivers are essential during the early years. During times like we are experiencing today, primary caregivers are spending an increased amount of hours with their children; therefore, this is a great opportunity to nurture meaningful relationships with powerful interactions. Powerful interactions create the optimal condition for parents to teach and the children to learn. Relationships and interactions during the early years play a great role in their early brain development and continuous learning.
Powerful Interactions Among Children and Primary Caregivers
Parents are the most familiar with their children’s interests, routines, and abilities; therefore, they can use this knowledge to incorporate learning opportunities during their daily activities, such as getting ready for the day, bath time, and riding in the car. Meaningful learning opportunities occur when children add new information and skills to what they already know. Children learn best when the new information is developmentally appropriate, is of the child’s interest, and is understandable. For example, a child who enjoys painting may already identify the colors blue, green, red, and yellow; however, they may not know that mixing together blue and yellow creates the color green. Parents use the Powerful Interactions approach to better understand what their children already know and what they may want to learn more about.
Steps to Powerful Interactions:
- Be Present: Set aside all daily tasks you need to finish and any feelings that may distract you. Provide your children with your full attention.
- Connect: Observe your child’s play, listen as they speak to you, and let them know you are interested in and focused on their play.
- Extend Learning: Build on your child’s interest and think of ways to make meaningful connections that encourage learning. Find questions to ask, comments to make, and activities to engage in together that show your interest and expand their learning.
Director of Early Childhood Cornerstones Program