Me: What was your favorite thing at school today?
Child: To stay at school for first grade.
[Mommy should not have said the word school. We are actually getting ready to change schools in the Fall, which we told her earlier today and the word school triggers her initial response which is that she wants to stay at her current school next year...Mommy scrambles frantically to rephrase and avoid this topic...]
Me: What did you learn about?
Child: I learned about ladybugs, and chicks. And we made one today.
Me: Made one what?
Child: A chick.
Me: How did you make a chick?
Child: Out of a bag.
Me: What did you do with the bag?
Child: I made a chick with it.
Me: But how did you make the chick?
Child: I had to cut out some lines.
Me: Did your chick have feathers on it?
Child: Yes [oops avoid the yes/no question...]
Me: What color?
Child: Yellow [there I go again...another short answer...]
[Mom decides to switch from talking about past events to more current surroundings, in hopes of getting more interaction. Little Einsteins is playing...let's see.]
Me: Who is your favorite Little Einstein?
Child: Yeah, because Annie has yellow hair.
Me: And yellow is your favorite color?
Child: Yeah, and she has yellow hair, see?
Me: What’s Big Jet trying to do?
[Big Jet is the bad guy of Little Einsteins. In this episode he uses various tricks and disguises to steal a pot of soup from Rocket.]
Child: He’s going to pretend he’s a tree.
Me: Why is he pretending to be a tree?
Child: Because Rocket thinks it is…[now distracted and just narrating the storyline] He’s taking the soup! They’re going to go after him and there’s going to be lots of dragonflies! [This is her favorite part.]
Me: Are those dragonflies like the ones at our house?
Child: No, they’re kind of blue and brown.
Me: The ones at our house?
Child: Yeah those are yellow. In the next movie Big Jet will pretend to be a train.
[Just to clarify for some reason the "dragonflies" are depicted more like lightning bugs (aka fireflies) than real dragonflies. The ones on the show are glowing yellow. Dragonflies near us are iridescent blue.]
Me: Do you like dancing with June?
Child: No, I don’t like dancing.
Me: Why not?
Child: Look it! They got past all the dragonflies! [Totally not registering Mom's question.]
Me: Now Annie’s singing…do you like singing with Annie?
Child: Yeah – (singing along) get the soup, get the soup, get the soup.
Me: Do you wish you had a red rocket?
Child: Yeah with Leo and Annie and Quincy and June.
Me: Where would you go if you had a rocket?
Child: I would fly up in the air and get a cloud.
I'll have to try this again sometime without the show on. Given the school situation I was offering lots of choices and trying not to push any unnecessary buttons today. When I asked her if it was okay for me to ask her some questions she said I should ask her while she was watching her show. On another day I probably would have said I would wait until she was done with her show. I did learn a lot from recording this exchange:
- Trigger words are no-nos.
- Yes/no questions have their place, but not to encourage interaction.
- Sometimes you just have to join your child where they are.
- Sometimes you need to encourage them to reach for the clouds.