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Unsure about how to speak to youngins? Chelsea from Practical Poppins has a few tips to help you out!

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[intro music]

Hank Green: Ok, imagine this scenario. It's been a little while since you've seen a friend or a family member or you're meeting someone for the first time, and they have a child that you haven't met.

Rachel Calderon Navarro: By definition, being an adult means it's been a little while since childhood. There's been a lot of activity in between those times, and it's completely understandable if you've forgotten how to speak with the lil humans.

H: So we've invited our friend Chelsea Dawn, of the YouTube channel Practical Poppins, to give us some tips on how to speak and interact with children. Take it away, Chelsea!

Chelsea: Hi! I'm Chelsea. I've been a preschool teacher and a nanny for the pasts ten years, and I've got a channel. It's called Practical Poppins and it's all about parenting and nannying and kids. So I'm here to give you a couple of tips on how to speak and interact with children.

The first thing to remember is: children are humans, just like you. If you're not used to being around kids, I know it can be tempting to speak down to them or talk to them in baby talk, but honestly, you really don't have to do that. You can speak to a child the same way you speak to anyone else. In fact, that's the best way to speak to them. It's been proven that children learn their language skills much faster when they're being spoken to using full sentences versus baby talk.

For example, it's better to say, even to a five-month-old infant, "Would you like your bottle?" versus, "Baby want a baba?" And children understand more language than you might think. For example, a one-year-old child who might only be able to speak five or ten words clearly has the ability to understand a follow simple one or two-step instructions. For instance, you could say, "Can you point to that crayon?" and they can do it. Or, "Can you find the ball and bring it back to me?" Small children are really much smarter than we sometimes give them credit for. 

Now if you're going over to a friend's house to meet their small children, make sure that when you arrive you ask if they'd like you to take off your shoes. So I know this might sound a little bit weird, but if you're arriving to a household with mobile babies and toddlers, most caretakers would prefer that you take off your shoes so the floor doesn't get dirty for those little crawling hands. If you are meeting someone's infant for the first time, please don't touch the baby right away. I know it's really tempting, their cheeks are so soft, and their tiny little hands and feet are so cute. But please don't touch them until you've washed your hands and been invited to touch the baby.

Infant's immune systems aren't that strong for the first few months and a lot of parents and caregivers are really particular about when and to whom they give the baby for snuggles. But don't worry, if you wash your hands and are patient, you'll most likely get some baby snuggles. As for older children, if you're meeting an older toddler or preschooler for the first time, even if they're the child of close relative or friend, don't expect a hug or kiss right away. You might have rules for your personal space, so do kids. A simple wave hello or high-five is the perfect way to introduce yourself. And don't be offended if the child hides behind their parent's or caregiver's legs, you are new, and tall, and have a much louder voice than they do. They're gonna need a minute or two to warm up. Which brings me to my next tip.

Whenever possible, get down to the child's eye-level when you're speaking to them. Kneeling, crouching or just bowing down to be on the child's eye level when you're introducing yourself will make a huge difference. You'll immediately seem less intimidating and seem more like a friend. 

Tip #4: When meeting older children, anywhere from 5-13 years old, especially girls, please don't just comment on their appearance. I know it can be a common impulse, for me too, but I think as adults, we need to really be conscious about how we're speaking to our kids. Especially when we're speaking to girls, we need to let them know that they are valuable for more than just their appearance. If you feel like you need to tell they're pretty or compliment them in some way, that's fine, just don't make it the everything you say to them.

A few things you could say to younger kids are, "I really like the color of your shirt, is that your favorite color?" or, "Wow, your hair is in a really fancy braid, did you do that yourself?" or my personal favorite, "Wow, those shoes look like they're really good for running fast. Can you show me how fast you can run in them?" When you're speaking with older children, go where they are. By that I mean, if they want to talk about dinosaurs, talk about dinosaurs. If they want to talk about princesses, or robots, or what they're learning in school, talk to them about that. And be really interested. If you give them a few minutes of your time, you'll build a connection and they'll feel like you really listened. Plus, they'll be much more willing to step back for a few minutes when it's time for you to chat with their parents or caregivers.

And finally, keep a sense of humor about you. Sometimes, I think being around kids gives me a strange or silly anytime without judgment card. Keep in mind, any child you meet might feel like dressing up like a monkey that day, or do cartwheels down the street while you're walking with their parents. Children don't have the same self-conscious hang-ups that adults do, and therefore they might do something that's a little weird or act totally silly sometimes, and that's awesome.

You could be making a totally weird face at a baby or singing a silly song with a 3-year-old and no matter where you are if people are giving you funny looks, you can just say, "Hey, I'm not weird, I'm just playing with the baby." That's one of the best parts about being around kids, honestly, is being totally weird around them and having the best excuse. So, those are all the tips I have for you today if you have any more questions about kids or parenting in general, leave a comment down below. And thank you so much to the How To Adult team for having me on as a guest. 

Rachel: Thank you for the advice, Chelsea.

Hank: Yeah, I love that when I have a baby on me, I can sing in public, and people are like, "That's normal, he has a baby." I'm probably just singing. 

R: If you want to see more of Chelsea, and get some great advice about kids and parenting in general, check out her channel, Practical Poppins. 

H: And if you want to see more of Rachel & me, and other guest hosts, subscribe to us at