What Do Children Gain From Intentional Interactions?

September 5, 2018

Parent Child Interactions

As parents and caregivers we want to give our children the best start in life–physically, emotionally, and academically. One way to help children lay a solid foundation for positive growth and development is to be intentional with the way we interact with our kids. What do children gain from intentional interactions, and how can parents and caregivers provide them?

Intentional interactions with young children are interactions that include a planned emotional connection and learning component. Research has shown that young children learn within the context of relationships with the important adults in their lives. The more trust and safety children feel with the adults who are caring for them, the more likely they are to learn important developmental skills from that individual. This applies to parents, grandparents, child care providers, and any other adult who frequently provides care for young children. Having consistency among your child’s caregivers is critically important to your child building feelings of trust and safety.

Adults can provide intentional interactions during routine caregiving and play times with young children. To be intentional, parents and caregivers should make an effort to reduce distractions and be fully present with their child. Use affectionate touch, positive tone of voice, eye contact, and shared attention to create a deep connection. Finally, use those moments when you and your child are fully engaged with one another to intentionally extend your child’s skill or vocabulary.

Here are some things to keep in mind when intentionally engaging with your child:

Remember, each child is unique. Observe your child and follow her lead about what interests her. If your child wants to play soccer, but you really thought she would be a dancer, try to follow her interest. This will show that you value her opinion.

Be a good listener. Be an active listener by reflecting your understanding of the situation back to him so that he knows you have been paying attention.

Seek opportunities for relaxed, unhurried and unstructured time together. This could happen while you are cooking dinner, playing together on a lazy Saturday morning or just enjoying a favorite book before bedtime.

Show affection with lots of hugs throughout the day. Enjoy a special bonding time before bed or let your child sit on your lap during story time. This shows your child she is important.

Remember the 3 P’s: Play-by-play, Paraphrase, and Praise. This allows you to describe what your child is doing (imagine yourself narrating the action of a TV show!), restating what your child has said to you, and praising their efforts toward your activity. These actions demonstrate to your child that you are invested in them and helps build a strong, trusting relationship. When your child feels safe, confident, and competent, he is more likely to try new things.

This article was written for the September 2018 edition of Parent Source.