Healthy Living in the North

Talk spots

Adult and child outside

What are your family’s talk spots?

What is a “talk spot”?

A talk spot is literally a spot to talk to someone. The idea behind talk spots is to remind people of times and places where it is ideal to be present in the moment and communicate with those around us. We get to the spot and it’s our incoming reminder: time to stop and talk!

Why do we need designated talk spots to remind us to stop and talk?

We live in a busy world that is driven by technology. We have a million things to do and are constantly distracted by screens, incoming texts, phone calls, and emails demanding our attention. More and more of our communication is happening via technology and there is less face to face conversation. All of these things can prevent us from recognizing the communication opportunities that are right in front of us.

Where can my talk spots be?

Here are a few examples of talk spots I suggest:

  • The table: Mealtimes are natural opportunities for conversation. You are sitting face to face and looking at each other, which is ideal for communication. Mealtimes provide opportunities to expand on your child’s vocabulary. You can label the food items (e.g., apple), describe the food (e.g., hot, cold, soft, crunchy), and talk about actions at mealtime (e.g., pouring the milk, cutting the meat). You can chat about what will be happening that day or what happened that day.
  • The car: When you are driving, you are forced to sit and slow down. It gives us the time to talk with our children and wait for a response. Slowing down and waiting are important elements for language development. Driving also provides new vocabulary opportunities: you can talk about the objects you see (e.g., garbage truck, hospital, school, dog, snow), the places you are going (e.g., preschool), and the people you are going to see (e.g., grandma).
  • Waiting rooms: You are waiting anyway, so why not put away the phone and talk? Talk about what is happening in the waiting room (e.g., “we are waiting for our turn”, “that boy is sitting and waiting, too”). Talk about what is going to happen in the appointment (e.g., “the dentist is going to look in your mouth”).
  • The bath: Baths need to happen and naturally create face to face interaction. At bath time, you can talk about body parts (e.g., feet, toes) and use action words (e.g., wash, rinse, splash, pour).
  • Change time / getting dressed: Talking when you are changing your child can help distract you and your little one from the task at hand :) It is a time to use descriptive language, clothing vocabulary (e.g., shirt on, pants on) or use sequencing terms (e.g., first we put your diaper on, then your shirt, your pants go on last). It is a time to offer choices (e.g., “red shirt or blue shirt?”). Offering choices can promote language development. You are providing a model of the words you would like your child to imitate, making it easier for them to repeat. Choices also help children recognize that words have power and give children a sense of self control.
  • The grocery store: The store provides many opportunities for vocabulary growth. You can talk about the different food items or describe their attributes (e.g., red apple or green apple), you can talk about quantity concepts (e.g., one cabbage, a few pears). You can also work on social skills, like saying “hi”/”bye” to the cashier.
  • Bedtime: A wonderful time to sit and talk with your child. It is also a good time to read to your child. Books expose children to new words and provide repetition, which is key for learning language.

The month of May is Speech and Hearing Month. It is a time to raise awareness about the importance of communication. As the Speech-Language and Audiology Canada website states: “The ability to speak, hear, and be heard is more vital to our everyday lives than most of us realize.”

Get out there and try some of the suggested talk spots! Try coming up with your own talk spots that may be better suited for your family. Have fun being in the moment, talking and connecting! Remember that to learn to use language, children need to have someone to talk to.

Trisha Stowe

About Trisha Stowe

Trisha was born and raised in the north. She started her career with Northern Health as a Speech Language Pathologist in 2012. In her current role, she supports children who have communication difficulties and their families. In her spare time, she loves exploring the north and everything it has to offer with her family.

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First Nations books: Children’s books exploring the Northwest Coast

Library bookshelf

The hunt for the perfect children’s book can be a challenge! When you are next searching, be sure to check out the collection of vibrant, beautiful books featuring local First Nations stories!

The hunt for the perfect children’s book can be a challenge. The number of options available can be overwhelming. In British Columbia, especially in the North, we are lucky enough to have access to culturally diverse reading material to offer our children.

Where I live, books featuring the Northwest’s vibrant First Nations cultures provide an opportunity for members of these communities to share their culture with others. In addition, for First Nations children, having materials that feature their local culture allows them to see images they are able to identify with and relate to. While it is also important to expose children to topics and subjects outside of their culture (broad background knowledge is important to later reading comprehension) having relatable materials can be a great way to transmit important information to the next generation.

The problem? Sometimes these books are not quite at the level that we need for a particular child. Rather than writing them off, though, try adapting the books to make them “just right” for your child’s level of development!

Garfinkel Publications has published a lovely series of books about exploring the Northwest Coast. Titles include Where is Mouse Woman?, Goodnight World, and Learn & Play with First Nations and Native Art. The images in these books are beautiful and very eye-catching for young children. Many of these stories are great for toddlers as there are lots of labels and not too much text.

How to adapt for the older preschool child? Try describing the pictures in more detail, or have the child make up a story for the images on the page. The picture provides them with a topic and allows them to practice using different kinds of sentences. It also gives the adult a chance to provide additional information that might not be in the book.

One of my personal favourites featuring a Northwest story is the book Raven: A Tricktser Tale from the Pacific Northwest, by Gerald McDermott. This book is a recounting of a traditional Haida story of how the sun came to be. The story is beautifully written but can be a bit long for some preschool children. Try simplifying the story, sticking only to the key elements (this means you will have to preread and do a bit of planning). As your child grows, you can add in more of the story or choose just a few pages (whichever ones your child is interested in) to discuss.

The great thing about books is there are many ways to read them. Feel free to be flexible in your story time to make whichever books you like work for you and your child.


Learn more about Northern Health’s Speech and Language Program.

Jackie Taylor

About Jackie Taylor

Jackie is a speech and language pathologist living and working in Queen Charlotte, Haida Gwaii. She grew up on the opposite coast (Saint John, New Brunswick) and graduated from McGill University in 2011. When she isn’t working, Jackie enjoys running and taking her dog for swims in the ocean.

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