Learning Together

Get answers, share concerns and join in the conversation.

Get expert insight into early childhood education today.

Helping Children to Communicate Effectively

by Dr. Susan Canizares | May 4, 2016 | Child Development

shutterstock_137915420Communication is the sharing of information between two or more people. It takes both verbal and non-verbal forms. As one of the major developmental tasks in early childhood, learning to communicate is vital for children in order to interact with the people in their life and to have their social, emotional, and physical needs met. During early childhood years, both families and teachers are critical for stimulating children’s communication skills.

Communicating positively with young children helps them to develop confidence and to build constructive relationships with others. Children learn to communicate by watching their parents, and other people around them. Here are a few ways to communicate positively with children:

  • Communicate at your child’s level. It’s important that you come down to your child’s level, both in language and height.
  • Ask the right questions. Try to ask open-ended questions that begin with the words “what,” “where,” “who,” or “how.”
  • Express your own feelings and ideas. When communicating with children, parents can teach many things by sharing their own feelings, such as morals and values.

Fostering communication skills in young children is incredibly important, even from birth. Infants are communicating using non-verbal means with facial expressions and eye contact, as well as sounds, such as laughing, babbling, and crying. To encourage infant communication, provide meaning to their efforts. For example, “You are laughing. You like it when I tickle your toes!” It’s also beneficial to use real words, not baby talk!

As children grow, they begin to learn to use language to communicate. Toddlers communicate with gestures and grunts, one- or two-word sentences, emotional expressions, and body movements. Here are some ways to encourage toddler communication:

  • Expand on their one- and two-word communications. Build sentences around their words. For example, “Hot, that’s right! The soup is hot.”
  • Label their emotions. For example, “When you fall and hurt your knee, you feel sad.”
  • While playing, describe what they are doing. For example, “You are throwing the ball into the hoop! Now it’s rolling away. Can you bounce the ball into the living room?”

Later on, preschoolers begin to talk in full, grammatically correct sentences. To encourage communication in preschoolers, try the following ideas:

  • Pair new and old vocabulary. Offer new words to broaden their horizon. For example, “I was really mad. I was furious.”
  • Ask about past events, probe for details, and provide new words to enhance descriptions. For example, “Who did you play with at school today? What did you do together?”

These sites offer further information on helping children develop effective communication skills:

http://main.zerotothree.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ter_key_social_communication

http://www.naeyc.org/dap/10-effective-dap-teaching-strategies

http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=525