5 Ways To Boost Communication in Kids

I know this seems a little bit too simple, but these strategies I've listed are, in my experience, tried and tested strategies to help to engage and get more communication happening for your kids!

So, here we go!

1.  Get down to their eye level


Crouch down, sit down on the floor, or pick them up. Being on the same eye level encourages eye contact and social communiation.

We've all been there. You're sitting at a table at a busy cafe, when someone you know comes up to say 'hello'. They're standing. You're sitting. It's kinda awkward. You don't usually have a long, flowing conversation with someone at different eye levels. As adults, when we walk into a room of people sitting down, we tend to naturally get ourselves on the same eye level as the people we're talking to. Particularly if we want to have a conversation. Same applies to kids. If we want to have a long 'conversation' or meaningful interaction with a child, get down to their eye level. They can't come up to your level, so it's up to you to get down to their's. Crouch down, sit on the floor or, if you can't do that, pick them up and bring them up to you! It seems so simple, but eye contact and facial expression are very important parts of communication. Being on the same eye level means that YOU can see your child's face, what they're looking at or interested in and how they are feeling. Also, YOUR CHILD can see your face, to make associations between facial expressions/ words/ feelings, practice using eye contact, they can see your mouth moves to make sounds and words.

2.  Talk in simple language


Use short sentences without all the 'fluff'. Provide a great example of clear, simple sentence that are achieveable for your child to say. 

Not rocket science here. Like all new skills, you can never do something perfectly first time. Doesn't happen. When you first learn to drive a car, it takes you 10 minutes to back out of the driveway because you have to make sure you have your seatbelt on, check the mirrors, turn the ignition on, put it into gear, put your foot on the brake, take handbrake off and put your foot on the accelerator. Ugh! How do people do this!!!! At first, you have to do all these things one at a time, step by step and consciously. Nearly 20 years later, I don't need to think about any of these things anymore. I just do them automatically. Same applies to learning language for children. At first, while they are learning, things don't just come automatically, they are conscious of what they are saying, how to say it, when to say it... It's complicated at first! If you provide children with too much information (for example, use sentences that are too long, using unnecessary words, etc) they will filter some of it out, and it could be the important bits! Use short, simple sentences to get your messages across.

3.  Ham it up!


Let your guard down and be a bit 'over the top' when playing with your child. Use exaggerated facial expressions, gasps and 'uh oh's. Your child will LOVE it!

This is definitely the most fun strategy to use! You've really got to let go with this one. Find your inner child, your goofy sense of humour and share it with your child. In fact, the goofier, the better!! I've been doing this for such a long time that I'm able to sing (I use the term 'sing' broadly!) in front of complete strangers, make silly noises and play toddler games with the enthusiasm of a toddler. It's taken some time to let go of inhibitions associated with being such a "goose" in front of people I don't know!! But the reason I do it, is that it helps me to connect quickly and communicate with children at their level and show them that I'm ready to play and communicate 'their way'. Making that connection through humour and expression is important to pave the way for better communication and a motivation to learn.

As with most things with kids, it's all in the presentation. Food, toys, learning... and communication!
So, when playing, use exaggerated facial expressions and hold them, so that your child can see your facial expression and has a couple of seconds to respond to it. They might copy it, laugh at it, or comment on it. Also, use very expressive 'noises' while you play, for example, 'uh oh', gasps, animal or vehicle noises, singing, humming - these are all very expressive ways of communicating that add to our messages. Don't underestimate the power of facial expressions.

4.  Read a Book



Don't just read a book with your child - interact with the book too! Put on a silly voice, sing the words, do some actions or noises or tap the rhyming beat!

Books are a FANTASTIC tool to encourage communication and language!!! My kids have always loved story time at the end of the day, before bed. We have to draw the line at the 5th story, otherwise we'd be there all night!

Try using 'character' voices when you're reading. Do a big, deep voice for a monster or bear character, use a teeny-tiny voice for 'little girl' characters. The more over the top your character voice is, the more your child will love it! I promise!

Use actions, 'sound effects' (boing, splash, whoooo, etc) or use the rhyme and rhythm of the story as a way of engaging your child. The classic story "Going on a Bear Hunt" is a terrific story for this. Tap your knees and say the story in the rhythm. Your child will be able to predict the next part of the story with ease and might help you tell the story and join in.


5.  Sing a Song


Your kids don't care if you can sing in tune - just sing! Make up your own songs, sing songs from your childhood or just sing any tune. Kids listen better to instructions that are sung. Try it!

There's a very good reason why we can still remember nursery rhymes from our childhoods, even though we haven't heard them for 20 or 30 years! We all have an innate connection with music and rhythm, so it makes sense to use this to help children listen to instructions and develop language skills.

Sing nursery rhymes for fun using lots of actions and facial expressions. You can even sing some nursery rhymes during your everyday routines, eg. "Put your shoes on Lucy" when getting your child's shoes on in the morning, "Take you driving in my car" or "The wheels on the bus [car] go round and round" when your driving to creche, kinder or school, "This is the way we [wash our bodies]" at bath time or "Twinkle, twinkle" just before bed time.

OR you can make up your own songs! Once you get started it really is quite easy! I tend to have 2 or 3 tunes that I use for all my 'made up' songs. Choose tunes that you know well. One of my 'go-to' tunes is "The Farmer in the Dell" and I use it for just about anything!

For example, (in the 'Farmer in the Dell' tune)... "Have your breakfast now, have your breakfast now. Munch and crunch and munch and crunch. Have your breakfast now....."!! I didn't say it would be a masterpiece, but it DOES get the kids to listen to me in the mornings, rather than me repeating myself 10 times! Try it! Your kids will be so surprised, and they'll prove that they DO actually hear you.


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