Research has found that how and how much a parent talks and interacts with their child from birth has a big impact on the child’s success in school and life.
Every parent has a different starting point for how much they talk, but there’s no limit to how many connections you can build in your child’s brain using the 3Ts: Tune In, Talk More, Take Turns.
The 3Ts are tools to make the most out of every interaction with your child. When you use all 3Ts at once, you build the strongest, most efficient brain possible.
Tune In means be in the moment. Pay attention to what your child is focused on and talk about it. What your child is focused on is always changing, so you have to stay Tuned In and change your words to match.
Once you Tune In, Talk More with your child. Remember, every word you say fills her bank and builds her brain.
When you Tune In and Talk More with your child, you automatically Take Turns. No matter your child’s age, you can Take Turns and have a conversation.
You don’t have to buy anything. You don’t have to carve out special time. Just use the 3Ts to talk and interact with your child throughout the day.
This Baby Day resource has been adapted from the 3Ts website, a free, easy-to-use interactive tool for parents and caregivers.
The 3Ts is a campaign led by TMW Center for Early Learning + Public Health designed to empower parents with knowledge and skills to enhance their infants’ and toddlers’ cognitive development. TMW’s efforts to launch the 3Ts was made possible by The PNC Foundation though PNC Grow Up Great®, a bilingual $500 million, multi-year initiative to help prepare children from birth to age 5 for success in school and life.
Each time you say a word, it enters through your child’s ear. Their brain hears it and fires a connection for that word. “Book.” “Moon.” “Ball.” During the early years, billions and billions of connections are created, building a complex circuitry that becomes the child’s foundation for learning. There is no other time in life when brain growth is so rapid.
During the early years, what your child soaks in- at home, school, and throughout their day – builds connections in their brain.
3Ts Basics: Are children born smart or made smart?
It is a common misconception that intelligence is all about genes. But genes are only the starting point. Your child needs rich early experiences to reach their potential. You make them smarter with each interaction.
Think of your child’s brain like a piggy bank, every word you say is a penny in their bank. The more you talk, the richer their brain becomes. The more you invest now, the richer your child will be later.
Tune In means to be in the moment. Your words go directly in your child’s bank when you talk about what they are focused on.
Talk More means look for opportunities to talk and interact. More words mean more pennies in their bank and more connections in their brain.
Take Turns means engage in conversation. Keep the conversation going to fill your child’s bank and build their brain.
When you Tune In, Talk More, and Take Turns with your daughter, you make every moment count.
How to use the 3Ts:
-Narrate: You don’t have to carve out special time to use 3Ts. You can use the 3Ts anytime and anywhere you talk and interact with your child. The next time you change, feed or dress your child, try to Narrate the activity as you do it. In addition to talking about what you’re doing right now, you can exercise your child’s brain even more by talking about the past and future.
Daily routines are a perfect time to fill your child’s bank. You’re going to be doing them anyway, so why not build your child’s brain at the same time?
-Book Share: It’s never too early to read with your child! Research shows that children read to from birth have bigger vocabularies and are stronger readers when they start school. They have better math skills too. This is why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reading with your child from birth. Instead of reading every word on every page, use the 3Ts to Book Share, open a book, and have a conversation. Tune In to what’s holding your child’s attention and Talk More about it.
How your child Takes Turns will look different as they grow. Your baby may take turns by babbling or cooing, making face, patting, or even chewing on the book. Your toddler may Take Turns by turning a page, pointing to a picture, lifting a flap, or using words or short sentences. Your 2- or 3-year-old may Take Turns by turning a page, pointing to a picture, lifting a flap, or using words or sentences.
An easy way to Book Share with your child is to describe what you see on the page. The most important thing is to follow your child’s lead. When you Tune In, Talk More and Take Turns during storytime, you build your child’s brain and lay the foundation for a love of reading.
-Math Talk: You build your child’s math foundation every day in ways you may not realize. When your baby cries because they are hungry, it's math. The idea of more or less of something is measurement. When your toddler gets upset when a stranger picks them up, it's math. Noticing differences between familiar and unfamiliar is sorting. When your 3-year-old adds "E-I, E-I, O" when you sing Old McDonald, it's math. Repeating the chorus at the correct time is following a pattern.
Use the 3Ts to Math Talk anytime, anywhere. Math Talk is talking about math concepts in everyday conversations. Tune In to what’s holding your child’s attention and Talk More about it. See how many different math concepts you can include. Take Turns to see how long you can keep the conversation, and them learning going.
Math Talk is much more than just numbers. Look for: Objects to count, Shapes to point out, Sizes to measure, Things to compare, Positions to describe.
When you Tune In, Talk More, and Take Turns using Math Talk, you strengthen your child’s skills and help her develop a positive attitude about math.
-Explain Good Behavior: Your child’s brain is still developing. They are not born knowing what good behavior is, or how to do it. They have to learn. Think of the behavior part of the brain as a stoplight. With a green light and a red light. The green light tells us to “go, go, go”, to give into our wants and impulses. The red light tells us to stop and think, to control them. As adults we use our stoplights all the time to make smart choices, young children can’t do this.
When your child acts out, it’s hard to remember that they don’t have the ability to control themselves yet. According to child development experts, children don’t start to learn to control their impulses and emotions until they are around 3 1/2-years-old. As a parent, it helps to have realistic expectations. When a toddler acts up, it is not because they are spoiled, trying to be bad or make you angry. It’s because they are learning how to use their stoplight. When you have realistic expectations, you can better support your child's efforts to learn to behave.
Children aren’t born knowing how to behave. They need you to teach them. Use the 3Ts to explain what good behavior looks like and strengthen your child’s red light.
-Catch them being good: Praise helps your child learn to behave! When you Explain, you teach your child what good behavior is. When you praise them, you encourage them to keep doing it. It's easy to notice when your child misbehaves. Use the 3Ts to Catch Your Child Being Good. Tune In to your child and look for behavior you can praise. Talk More about what they are doing and why you like it. Encourage them to Take Turns, to keep the conversation, and the good behavior, going. It's just as easy to say nothing when they behave well. But when you praise your child's positive behavior, you help them exercise their red light. Young children's red lights are developing, so they are still learning how to stop, think, and behave.
Be consistent. The more you use the 3Ts to explain and catch your child being good, the stronger her red light will become.
-Technology: Think about the 3Ts. Screens can't Tune In or Take Turns with your child. It may seem like the TV or an app say lots of words, but those words don't build your child's brain like yours do. When your child does use technology, use the 3Ts to make it interactive. Tune In to what’s holding your child’s attention, Talk More about it, and Take Turns to move the conversation beyond the screen. Any opportunity to cut back on technology or use the 3Ts to turn it into a conversation, is a brain-building one. It’s not just about your child’s screen time. Your technology use matters too! Your child learns best from you! Tune In, Take More, Take Turns to make every moment count.
Watch some of our favorite educational videos on the 3Ts.
Are children born smart or made smart?
When can I use the 3Ts?
When should I start reading with my daughter?
How can I make the most out of storytime with my child?
What does it mean to Book Share?
When does my child begin to learn math?
How can I build my child’s math foundation?
Why does my child act out?
How can I help my child learn to behave?
Will praising my child too much give her a big head?
How can I help strengthen my child's red light?
Does my child learn from screen time?
Technology is everywhere. How can I be sure it doesn’t get in the way of my child’s brain development?
- The 3Ts Digital Tool
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- Story Line Online: Storyline hosts free virtual readings of children’s books. Each video animates the pictures in the books and includes an activity guide
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- Talking Is Teaching: Indoor activity tool-kit that focuses on activities that don’t require any special materials.
- Kennedy Center: Join author and artist Mo Willems in his virtual studio for doodling, drawing and writing fun.
- Audible: Audible makes hundreds of children’s books available to stream for free.
- PBS: Join Michelle Obama every Monday at noon on PBS KIDS’ Facebook or YouTube page as she reads aloud from classic children’s books.