Incessant, Intriguing, Intelligent, Inspiring Interaction
Jane Healy, Ph.D.
By Rai Thompson
Going on a road trip? Do you and your children have luggage, snacks, music, books to read or listen to, hand-held video games? Maybe you’re just going to the grocery store. The children traveling with you make sure they have their video games to occupy themselves; they always have those handy, and the devices are especially valuable on a long road trip. Regardless of your destination, whether near or far, perhaps you should also come prepared to participate in additional pursuits with your children. An important activity which should not be ignored is to engage your children in conversation, and having a “captive audience” is the ideal opportunity.
The difficulty, of course, lies in the topic. The tried and true question, “What did you do today?” lends itself ever so nicely to the standard one-word response, “Nothing.” Conversation over. The child has not utilized a single brain cell or practiced the give-and-take nature of interacting with another person: having to really listen, formulate an appropriate response, articulate it, listen again, and so on. It takes work to carry on a lively conversation, and many of us are too busy or too tired to make the effort. If you plan ahead, however, and take advantage of someone else’s preparation, a pleasant surprise might be in store.
Jane Healy, Ph.D. has written a wonderful book entitled Is Your Bed Still There When You Close the Door?... and Other Playful Ponderings: How to Have Intelligent and Creative Conversations With Your Kids. In addition to providing research and rationale for her premise, Dr. Healy offers several creative open-ended questions that span levels of difficulty, age, and interest, and suggested related titles for reading aloud. She also includes the rules for “The Conversation Game.” The book is an invaluable resource for instigating conversations that will teach children to think and expand their minds. While the book is currently out of print, there are multiple copies available for checkout from the Collie Library at Neuhaus Education Center!
So, as you are planning your near or far trip, be prepared. Consider compiling a list of conversations starters on paper. You can then cut them apart and put them in an envelope or small box. Once the trip is underway, allow a child to put out a topic at random. Take a consensus as to everyone’s interest in the subject matter. It might occur that the chosen focus is not popular today, but in demand on another day. You will have to set some ground rules such as: be courteous and polite, there are no “right” answers, listen, etc. Then, get started and have some fun. You will probably discover that one topic will lead to another, and might even lead to an area of intense interest on part of one of your children. Of course, car travel is not the only opportunity to engage in this activity. A good goal for having intriguing, intelligent, and inspiring conversations is to incessantly inquire!
Additional resources are also available online and include others’ rationale, ideas and even games for purchase.