Conversation is a huge part of our everyday lives and is one of the main ways in which we communicate with each other. We can help our children develop good communication skills.
As children grow, they start to become more confident communicators who are able to be understood and understand others. Help and support from parents and teachers helps children to build their vocabulary and to develop their communication skills.
How well children and young people communicate with others has a big influence on how well they are able to build healthy friendships and relationships through their lives and reduce the risk of bullying.
Children with good language skills have been shown to do better at school and can have better life chances.
Try to spend time talking with your child about thoughts, feelings, interests and experiences. Keep in the habit of spending time with each other or as a family. School and out of school activities will also play a role in helping your child develop their communication skills.
Hillingdon children’s integrated therapy service have a number of advice sheets to support your child's development at all stages.
Make sure there is time to talk
Talk about things as you do them: comment on what you are doing, what you can see, hear, or feel and about what is going to happen next.
Spend some special time talking with your child every day.
Listening to your child
Listen carefully to your child and give them time to finish speaking. Conversation is a two-way process. Always respond in some way when your child says something. Take turns to speak.
Get your child’s attention
Gain your child's attention before speaking or asking a question. It is better to say "Tim, please come over here", than to say "Come over here, Tim" because then your child will be focussed once you call their name. Encourage them to look at you when they speak, or if they find this difficult, in your direction. Think about distractions such as the TV, comfort, motivation, understanding and interest – make communicating as easy as possible.
Giving time to respond
Give your child time to think about what you have said and formulate a response. Children often need time to put their thoughts together before answering - as we do. Try to reduce pressure on your child talking, rather accept any communication attempts and encourage these interactions by allowing them time to communicate their needs
Building on what your child says
Listen and acknowledge what your child has said, add in any missing words, use the correct pronunciation of sounds, this shows your child that you have listened to what they have said, it also gives the opportunity to hear the correct pronunciation of the word, with additional language to extend their sentences and vocabulary, for example, “I goed park yesterday and jump wet”, “yes you went to the park yesterday and you jumped in puddles”
Praise your child's efforts to speak even if it is not perfect. If your child says something incorrectly, say it back the right way rather than correcting him, e.g. If your child says "I done the puzzle", you can say "Wow! You did the puzzle. Well done!" Children are more likely to change what they say in the future when they have worked it out for themselves.
Use the senses
Use all the senses to help learn new words. For example, if there are fruit or vegetables your child cannot name, encourage them to feel, smell and taste them as well as saying the name.
Try not to ask too many questions as they can be hard to understand.
Ask questions but try to use ones that will challenge your child to think - ask 'why' ‘what’ and 'how' rather than questions that just need an answer 'yes', 'no' or a single word answer. Try to get a few comments from your child from one question
Give your child a choice of two items to encourage communication, would you like an apple or an orange? Would you like to play on the swing or the slide?
Use expressions and non verbal communication too
Speaking in a lively, animated voice and using gestures and facial expressions to back up words can give more clues about what your words mean. This also demonstrates the importance of non-verbal communication to your child.
“Screen time” refers to any time spent looking at a screen whether watching video’s or playing games. This includes: TV’s, tablets, smart phones and laptop’s or computers. Smart Phones – watching video’s and playing games.
Most children will be exposed to screen’s and they can help supplement education and provide entertainment when used in moderation and when adults interact with them alongside screen time.
Why screen time limits are recommended
- Less time for real life learning (e.g. sharing books and play), and interactions between you and your child.
- Concentration difficulties caused by distraction from screens
- Computer and video games do not encourage the development of the front part of the brain, which controls behaviour, judgement and concentration
- Longer screen use during the day may impact on sleep and cause irregular sleep patters
- Increased risk of childhood obesity
Finding the balance:
- aim for some screen free days
- limiting screen time to 2 hours per day on days screens are used
- set a good example yourself – try to limit your own use of phones and tablets, and turn the TV off when no-one is watching
- Find things you and your child can watch or play together. Your child will learn lots from having the opportunity to discuss what they are seeing on the screen
The Children's integrated therapy team have a useful guide on how you can use screen time to get your child talking.
- Speak to your child’s school teacher
- Speak to your school nurse
- Speak to your school's SENCO
- Look at the resources and information on the Hillingdon Talks website
- Call the CITS advice line
The I Can website has answers to common questions about speech and language assessments and also information about the assessment services it offers.