For New Years: Top 5 Ways to Help Your Child Improve Communication Skills
New Years is an excellent opportunity to encourage your children to focus on developing healthy habits. That can include working on ways to improve communication skills with your child. As a parent, you can incorporate these tips into your everyday interactions with your child to help them improve communication skills at home.
The speech therapists at Therapy Works Together listed these top ten tips for parents. They recommend picking one tip to focus on each week so that you will be able to focus on it well. We use many of these in speech therapy so we know they work!
1. Give a Good Model. Don’t Over-Correct.
When you are working on a child’s speech (how they sound when they talk) try not to insist that they say a sound correctly, especially if it is a sound that doesn’t develop until they are older. When parents over-correct, the child may just create a negative connotation.
Instead of telling the child to say something better, you can give a model for the right way to say it. For example, if your child is saying “tat” instead of “cat,” provide natural opportunities for them to hear you say it the right way (e.g., perhaps when playing with a stuffed animal).
RELATED: 7 Ideas for How to Help a Child with Speech Delay
2. Wait for Your Child to Finish.
Many of us have a hard time waiting for someone else to finish a sentence before we start to reply (or finish their sentence).
As a general rule, we ask parents to wait a sometimes difficult and lengthy 5-10 seconds for your child to answer. This can give a toddler or child with a language delay time to process their thoughts and reply. The Stuttering Foundation also states that It can also help people who stutter.
3. Treat Your Child as a Full Communication Partner.
What we mean is that you can treat your child as if they are communicating accurately even when you don’t understand them. You don’t need to use baby talk with your child even if they are speaking gibberish. We recommend attempting to understand what they are saying (due to context if possible) and replying to them.
4. Read. And Then Read Some More.
We’ve discussed the importance of reading in a few blog posts and for a variety of reasons (like for Apraxia of Speech) but we don’t only mean books. Depending on your child’s age, here are some more things you can read:
- Cereal boxes – teach that information (like ingredients) is all around them
- Signs on the street – your child will learn that those symbols they see tell them where to go
- Recipes – learn steps, directions and how to read instructions
- Maps – there may not be as much text but it is still a symbol system (which is exactly what written text is)
Books don’t have to be read word for word. You can also talk about the pictures you see. You can talk about:
- What the characters are doing like running, jumping, eating, talking.
- How things look. Are they big/little, colors etc.
- Feelings and expressions on people’s faces
If your child knows the book, they can take a turn telling the story or imagine what might happen next. Reading is crucial for building imagination and exposing your child to a bigger vocabulary to improve receptive and expressive language skills.
5. Ask Open Ended Questions. But Not too Many.
One of the first tips we give parents is to stop asking their child yes/no questions. Open-ended questions are those that have various answer possibilities and not just “yes” or “no”. Open ended questions ask your child to reason for themselves and do the “mental work” needed to form a reply.
- Instead of: Did you go to the playground?
- Ask: Where did you go in the park?
- Instead of: Do you want to buy cereal at the store?
- Ask: What do you want to buy at the store?
- Instead of: Do you want to read “Hop on Pop”?
- Ask: What do you want to read today?
We are not recommending asking your child too many questions throughout the day. This could make them feel like they are being interrogated and not a conversation partner.
Don’t bombard your child with question after question thinking that this will build high language skills.
This New Years, Improve Communication Skills at Home
We hope that these ideas give you a great way to improve communication skills for your child at home. It is very important that parents learn to use the strategies we use in speech therapy at home since they are their child’s first (and best) teacher.
Therapy Works Together – Online Speech Therapy for Children and Adults
We care about every child and adult achieving their speech, language and communication goals. You can start speech therapy online now with a certified speech language therapist. We’ll discuss your personal needs, develop an individualized treatment plan, and schedule affordable online therapy sessions online at your convenience.