Parent-Child Conversations Can Alter Brain Biology

Updated: Mar 19, 2018





New Harvard research has come out that suggests how parents interact with their children affects the biological development of their brains. Interplay (i.e. the back and forth nature of a conversation, with each side taking turns to speak) has been identified as critical to advanced development.


“It’s almost magical how parental conversation appears to influence the biological growth of the brain.”

Well written books are an easy and effective way to add new interplay opportunities. Here are 5 tips to get your kids talking:


  1. Let your child choose the book, even if it’s the same book over and over again (repetition builds a sense of mastery)

  2. Point to faces and ask how that character feels

  3. Relate to items in the book that are in your own environment (trees, sofa, fridge, windows, cars, dishes, etc). You could say things like “our tree is much smaller” or “they have curtains just like we do”. Encourage you child to do the same.

  4. Pick a side character and ask your child to tell you more about them. You can help them by asking leading questions like “What do you think she did in school today?”

  5. Give your child plenty of time to respond. 30-60 seconds of silence will give them time and show them you are genuinely interested in hearing what they have to say (which builds confidence too!).

While all books are great for layering conversations on, we've compiled a list of our favorite conversation-starters ...




1. The Last Stop on Market Street


CJ takes a bus ride with his grandmother that is full of characters, observations and conversation. Parents can relate to common street elements and also feed off what the grandmother is saying during the ride. (ages 3-6)


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2. Ask Me


As a girl and her father take a walk, questions and answers abound as does the roving curiosity of the child. Readers get to overhear an intimate conversation between them which provides a useful example of great parent-child interplay. (ages 2-6)


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3. Everywhere Babies


Parents can layer on interplay conversations by relating to activities and objects their child has (or had) as a baby themselves. This book is full of faces, which enable parents to ask their child how some characters feel (sad, happy, hungry, frustrated, excited, etc). (ages 0-3)


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