Q: Why are you asking children to talk to themselves? Isn’t that a little weird?

self-talk, spark* News

A: Talking to yourself (‘self-talk’) is a powerful strategy. It helps children regulate their behavior, thinking, and emotions. There are other functions, such as practicing speech, but the primary focus in spark* is self-regulation.

Most use self-talk from about two years of age when their expressive language skills are emerging. They often comment about what they’re doing. They also remind themselves about rules and about how to say certain things. As children reach middle childhood, a lot of the self-talk goes undercover. They begin to whisper to themselves or think it silently. There are still times when they tend to talk out loud to themselves. If a task is particularly difficult or complicated, you’ll hear children talking themselves through it. This is the same for many adults – “Now, what do I do next. Oh right, I have to add some color.”

I enjoy watching the Junior Bake Off, a BBC/Channel 4 program featuring nine to 15 year old children who compete in baking challenges. The amount of self-talk by the children is fascinating. They use it to help themselves remember what to do, stay on task, remain positive, and acknowledge struggles. You might be interested to watch for yourself – check out Junior Bake Off on YouTube.

In spark*, we use a combination of picturing things in your brain and talking to yourself. Talking to yourself is encouraged to help

 children stay focused – “I’m looking for a brown bear, I’m looking for a brown bear.” Self-talk also helps them remember instructions. By repeating directions over and over, they keep refreshing their working memory. We also encourage children to remind themselves of strategies – “Now, I have to check my work to make sure it’s complete.”, “If someone is bugging me, I need to ignore them.”  Self-monitoring is a critical part of self-regulation so we encourage children to ask themselves,  “How did I do?” and “Did I do okay?”. This helps remind them to look at what they did and evaluate it. 

So, self-talk is normal. It’s used by most children and many adults to help them regulate their behavior, thinking, and emotions. In spark*, self-talk plays an important role in helping children focus, stay on task, remember information, self-monitor, and remind themselves of rules and strategies. Over time, children are encouraged to ‘say it in your brain’ rather than out loud.