Measuring talk at home

Very small children develop their early language at home. In order to find out more about talking to children at home, project manager Emma Quigan has been working with a small group of parents and pre-schoolers. The group has been exploring what kinds of tools and ideas are helpful for parents to talk more and talk differently with their children. Parents are using the data to find opportunities in their daily routines to talk more and talk differently. They are also using innovative technology to measure the impact of these changes.
The LENA (Language Environment Analysis) Recorder (like a pedometer that records words instead of steps) is a wearable device that children use for one full day per fortnight. The recorder gathers data on the words directed at a child, and most importantly, the number of turns they take in an interaction. Research demonstrates that children learn from having multiple opportunities to use the words they know in conversations. The tool is being used in language development projects overseas and we want to see if it is useful in NZ.

The parents receive coaching from Emma to help them understand the data and to learn about strategies for increasing talk at home. Some of the most useful sessions have been when the parents reflect and problem solve together, they have been enthusiastic about trying out this approach and are using results to change the way they talk.
One mother explains: " before I'd probably just say 'eat your breakfast'". Now " I just try to specify more about what I mean with them. Like over breakfast I said we're lucky to be having this tasty breakfast eh. It's a special one today. We've got crispy bacon, and a runny yellow egg yoke - just the way I like them. We'll put a pinch of salt on it to make it even nicer."

Three more recorders have arrived and we will be trying them out with more parents as the year progresses.
LENA recorders help families interact and talk more at home