Everyone is different and learns at their own pace, but one thing almost all humans have in common is the ability to form and communicate complex thoughts. How we communicate has a huge influence on the direction our life will take, so instilling good communication skills should be a priority for any parents. The first 8 years are the most important in forming our communication skills, so promoting good communication in your baby will lay the foundation for the rest of their lives. So whether or not your child is having difficulty communicating, below are five tips to help encourage your child to communicate.
From the moment they’re born, babies are communicating. Usually this comes in the form of crying, and is a pretty straightforward affair, but as time goes on, their skills will expand. They will begin laughing, making puzzled noises, gesturing, and even try their hand at answering back.
Responding to your baby when it tries to communicate is a crucial step in helping them understand the social significance of communicating. Even if they’re making seemingly random noises, responding in time lets them know that in order to get something from another person, they have to communicate. If these noises are ignored, the child may not learn that lesson, and will seek other ways of attracting attention, such as by acting out.
Make Use of Non-verbal Communication
By the time they’re about one year old, non-verbal communication becomes increasingly important to toddlers. Pointing, waving, and reaching out might seem like just another bit of cute baby behaviour, but these gestures actually represent the child making an active effort to interact. This sort of behaviour should be heavily reinforced and encouraged to help your child become an open communicator. Gestures can also help them to understand the meaning of words and phrases, such as bye-bye, or bottle.
Read During the Day
Thankfully, the age-old practice of parents reading to their children is something that has survived the digital revolution. This is beneficial to children in many ways, as it helps them learn to associate pictures with words, sounds with animals, and even helps to develop their logistical skills by following a storyline (this works best if you read the same story repeatedly). However, the flaw is that late at night, kids can be tired, you can be in a rush to get them asleep, and they may not absorb everything. Reading to them during the day allows you both to give the book your full attention, and they’ll retain the information better than they would if they fell asleep afterwards.
The single most effective way to teach young children almost anything is to lead by example, so if you want your child to talk, talking incessantly should speed things up. This is a very popular technique used by parents who feel their child is at a stage where they should be more verbal. It’s important to remember that children all develop at different rates, so as long as your child does not have an underlying issue with speech or language, this is an easy option. Simply narrating everything you do not only helps them learn words, it also reinforces the importance of communicating with other people.
Arrange Play Dates
Even if you’re doing everything you can to help your child communicate, you can’t do everything yourself. Children have a basic “us & them” mentality when it comes to adults and toddlers, and often pay much closer attention to other children. Arranging play dates will help your child interact with other toddlers, which is important. But crucially, they’ll be communicating with someone who doesn’t communicate the exact same way as you do. Exposing kids to the different ways people can and do communicate will help develop their understanding of the complex and various ways communication can take place.
All children develop at different paces, so don’t let a quiet child worry you too much. If you still think your child has made little to no progress in a long time, taking them to see a Speech-Language therapist will help alleviate those concerns, or address any potential issues as early as possible.