With schools closed and most sports and evening activities canceled, families are experiencing a rare phenomenon, time to have a real conversation! During our normally hectic schedule, it’s easy for communication between parent and child to turn into a series of commands and responses. “Finish your homework! Get off screens!” However, it’s important to remember that we lay the foundation for our children’s communication and social skills early on. Let’s use this time to practice and teach good communication skills.
Young children benefit greatly from early conversation, interactive reading, and even a running commentary on daily tasks like making dinner to build their vocabulary and communication skills. At Fay, we reinforce these early lessons by greeting our preschool and Primary School students by name at the door each morning. Students shake the Head of Primary School's hand, look her directly in the eyes and say, “Good morning, Mrs. Knuppel!” It may sound simple, but those daily habits build confidence as well as strong communication and social skills that will serve children well for years to come. Here are some suggestions for building early social and communication skills at home.
Have lots of conversations.
Italian educators describe the give and take of a conversation as a ball being thrown back and forth between two people. Just like throwing and catching, children need to learn how to have a conversation by practicing. A child who can have a fluid conversation is a child who can tell a story--and that is the beginning of writing.
Ask “What if” questions.
Open-ended questions that require thought and that act as a starting point for discussions are a great way to engage your child in thoughtful conversation. Why do you think the snow sticks to the ground? Why do you think that activity is challenging for you? You’ll be amazed at what you learn.
Help your child build a strong vocabulary.
Don’t water down your vocabulary too much when you talk to children. A robust active vocabulary is a wonderful gift for a child, and the more words they have in their word bank when they start school, the better.
Read every chance you get.
Preschoolers and older children love to curl up with you and read. Stop every now and then and ask them to predict what will happen next. This encourages children to be active listeners and good communicators as they make connections between the story and their own lives.
Remember to make time in your day to enjoy the precious - and often priceless - experience of sharing a conversation with your child.