Using screens to stimulate talk 

When we think of kids in front of the TV or on the computer or with a phone, we tend to think of them zoned out of the world, engrossed in the screen and shut off from communication, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

During the lock down, it can be hard to think of things to talk about. Nobody has any news from their day, the kids don’t have new knowledge and questions to share from their school topics, you can’t visit museums or attractions to spark new conversations. Books and newspapers can be good ways to engage with the world outside your home, but so can screens. Here are some ideas of how you can make the most of screen time to help keep your kids talking:

  1. Watch TV together.

 Gogglebox is a good example of how families talk while they watch the TV. In fact watching TV together can be such a bonding experience that apps have come out to allow friends and families who do not live together, to watch shows together virtually and simultaneously during the lockdown.

Whether you watch a family movie, a TV series or a documentary, it will broaden your shared experience and give you something to talk about, both during the viewing and afterwards. For example if you watch the Mallory Towers CBBC adaptation, dinner time conversations that could follow include: Would you like to go to boarding school? Who is more horrible Gwen or Matron? If you were in the dorm, who would you want to be your best friend and why?

  1. Talk about what they watch

Even if you don’t have the time to sit and watch the movie or show with your children, try asking them general questions afterwards to get them thinking about what they have watched and learned:

  • What was the film about?
  • Who were the main characters?
  • When/where was it set?
  • Did they like it or not? Why?
  • Did it remind them of any other films/shows?
  • Who would they recommend it to?
  • What did it make them think about?
  • Did it make them have any questions?
  1. Set them an online research task

For older children, you can set them a a task to find out more about. This gives them something independent to be getting on with and then gives you something good to talk about at mealtime. To keep their internet time safe, keep them in the same room as you and keep an eye on what they are doing, make sure you have appropriate blocks set and introduce them to a safe search engine such as Kidrex. The topic they research could come out of something you have watched or read, follow their interests or be a chance to introduce them to something new. It could be anything from cats to Ancient Greece, to chocolate to steam engines. Before they start get them to come up with a list of questions they want to answer and perhaps add a few yourself.

  1. Play computer games together

Using a console or the many games available online, find something you both enjoy and play together. Keep chatting as you play and enjoy the connection with your child. It may be Just Dance, Minecraft, a City Simulation game, a racing game or a simple Cbeebies game with your littlest ones, as long as you’re both having fun then it can be a welcome moment of relaxation and bonding. Just don’t get hooked and play all day…!!!

  1. Go on a virtual field trip

You may be physically stuck in the house but there is an opportunity for a virtual field trip every day. Organisations around the world have responded to the current crisis by putting more online than ever before. If you have a schedule you are following, consider adding a field trip into your daily routine. Take it turn to chose where you will go. Where will it be today? A zoo? A national park? A museum? A show in the theatre? An art gallery? A wonder of the world? An aquarium? The International Space Station or even Mars? Explore the online offer and use it to talk about new things. If it raises questions you can’t answer, look for the answers online together. These field trips could lead to ideas for stories, artwork or imaginative play…or they could just give you new things to talk about.

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