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Toddler Talk: Reflecting Content

Now that my son is talking well, I love listening to him when he is not talking to anyone in particular. I will often hear him quietly talking while he is playing, and I love that merely listening provides so much insight into his world.

Reflecting content, the second skill in this set of three techniques to interact effectively with your child as he or she plays, capitalizes on your child’s spoken words during play. As your child talks or tells you what is taking place during play time, you repeat back what you hear. A helpful way to think about this is “rephrase and repeat.”

So, an example of how you might use this is as follows:

Your child takes the family out of the dollhouse and places them at the front door. She says, “They are going to visit Grandma and Grandpa today.” You then paraphrase what was just said. You could say, “The family is going to visit their grandparents” or “They are at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.” You want to change your response enough that it doesn’t sound like a parrot echoing the same phrase back to your child.

Another example would be if your child is setting up plastic bowling pins in a line and says, “These are going to be the barrier for the army.” You might say, “You are building a barrier” or “That is for the army.” Once more details are added by your child, you can begin to connect statements together in your responses.

The benefits of reflecting content are that children learn the nature of conversation, they recognize that you are listening and they begin to educate you about their play. Further, once you are comfortable with tracking behavior and reflecting content, you can use them simultaneously to further enhance the play time. “You moved the family to the front door” (tracking) and “They are at Grandma and Grandpa’s house” (reflecting).

The beauty of these skills is that while you are expressing interest and attention, your child is completely in control and leading the play time. You are not directing nor guiding, but a companion to witness the creativity, imagination, and passion of a child at play. As you watch and listen, you gain insight and awareness about your child’s world ... and that is a gift beyond words!

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