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Conversation Starter #8 Cook It, Eat It, Clean It Up - Ages Birth to 1 ½ years old

The brain cells of newborns are tuned in to a mother’s voice and words even before a child is born.  When little children learn to talk they are learning the most important first step to becoming good readers. They are learning what words mean. Without comprehension, a child misses the whole point of reading, which is to understand.

The Gift of Words conversation starters offer parents many ways to teach children what words mean. If the childcare providers and parents use The Gift of Words together, children will hear, repeat and remember more new words. It doesn’t take more time to develop a big vocabulary; it takes more words. Parents’ languages are their child’s first languages. Say-what-you-see is a powerful technique for teaching vocabulary in whatever languages a family and a community speaks. Lucky are the children who learn two languages from birth.


Week 1: 

  1. Read the book with your child and without your child.

  2. Point to Wally Word Bird as the baby turns the pages.

  3. Talk about Wally Word Bird In the language you like best.

  4.  Talk about what your child is doing, e.g. “Wally Word Bird is holding a spoon. You are holding a spoon. Oops! Mama has to pick up the spoon.”

  5. How do you feel about your role as mom and your child’s first teacher?

  6. How do you feel talking to a child who cannot talk?

  7. Talk to your childcare provider about your role as new mom and first teacher.

Week 2:

  1. Use one conversation starter a day.

  2. Let your child choose conversation starters you talk about.

  3. Talk the book. The book is about talking. It is not necessary to read it every time.

  4. Say-what-you-see.

Week 3: Choose one of the book’s conversation starters to spend time with,  #8 Cook it, Eat it, Clean it up.

  1. Say-what-you-see your child likes in the kitchen and in the book, e.g. “Wally Word bird is going to get a fried egg for breakfast.”

  2. When a baby is eating, give her words for what she is eating, e.g. “You like fried eggs for breakfast,” or “Are you hungry? We can nurse in a minute.” 

  3. Add real kitchen objects children and moms talked about at home to the school eating, cleaning or cooking curriculum.

  4. Repeat say-what-you-see many times a day especially at meals.

Week 4:  Each parent choose one focus: cooking, eating or cleaning and talk all week about it.

  1. Look at your child’s face before you begin to talk to her. Talk about the pictures in The Gift of Words using that focus, e.g. “The girl in the red dress is taking milk out of the refrigerator to put on her oatmeal.”

  2. Teach your child the hand signal for “more” by using the hand sign when you ask “more?” and by giving your child more when he uses the hand sign or cries for more.

  3. Think of different ways of repeating a word to make it fun (say it in a whisper, sing it…)

Week 5: Moms and caregivers sing or say counting songs or poems while pointing at real or pictures of real objects in the conversation starter.

  1. While touching your baby’s toes and looking her in the eyes, say “This little pig goes to market” poem.

  2. Point to the foods in the conversation starter and change the words to the poem, “This Wally bird went to market, this Wally bird stayed home. This Wally bird bought blueberries, and this Wally bird bought toast and this Wally bird went Ow! Ow! Ow! the pot on the stove is too hot to touch!”

  3. Use the tune of “Row, row, row your boat” and other melodies you know to make up songs to go with daily routines e.g. “Wash, wash, wash your hands gently with the water. Clean between your fingers and thumbs after you eat your oatmeal…”

  4. Say-what-you-see you or your child is doing whenever you are with him…literally hundreds of times of day.


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