Tips For How To Improve Communication Skills at Home
- First of all, TALK A LOT
- GIVE WAIT TIME
Most of us don’t even wait for people to finish a sentence before we chime in with what we have to say.A good rule of thumb is to wait 5-10 seconds for your child to answer. It gives your child time to process what they want to say. This can also prevent or diminishstuttering in some children.
- DON’T OVER CORRECT YOUR CHILD
If you demand that your child say a sound correctly, especially if it is a sound that doesn’t develop until they are older……please stop!
Over correcting is the exact opposite way of how to improve communication skills.
The more you demand they say something right, the worse it may likely get. You don’t want to make talking and saying speech sounds a negative thing, because they just might stop doing it altogether.
Activities to Encourage Speech and Language Development
Birth to 2 Years
- Encourage your baby to make vowel-like and consonant-vowel sounds such as “ma,” “da,” and “ba.”
- Reinforce attempts by maintaining eye contact, responding with speech, and imitating vocalizations using different patterns and emphasis. For example, raise the pitch of your voice to indicate a question.
- Imitate your baby’s laughter and facial expressions.
- Teach your baby to imitate your actions, including clapping you hands, throwing kisses, and playing finger games such as pat-a-cake, peek-a-boo, and the itsy-bitsy-spider.
- Talk as you bathe, feed, and dress your baby. Talk about what you are doing, where you are going, what you will do when you arrive, and who and what you will see.
- Identify colors.
- Count items.
- Use gestures such as waving goodbye to help convey meaning.
- Introduce animal sounds to associate a sound with a specific meaning: “The doggie says woof-woof.”
- Acknowledge the attempt to communicate.
- Expand on single words your baby uses: “Here is Mama. Mama loves you. Where is baby? Here is baby.”
- Read to your child. Sometimes “reading” is simply describing the pictures in a book without following the written words. Choose books that are sturdy and have large colorful pictures that are not too detailed. Ask your child, “What’s this?” and encourage naming and pointing to familiar objects in the book.
2 to 4 Years
- Use good speech that is clear and simple for your child to model.
- Repeat what your child says indicating that you understand. Build and expand on what was said. “Want juice? I have juice. I have apple juice. Do you want apple juice?”
- Use baby talk only if needed to convey the message and when accompanied by the adult word. “It is time for din-din. We will have dinner now.”
- Make a scrapbook of favorite or familiar things by cutting out pictures. Group them into categories, such as things to ride on, things to eat, dessert, fruits, things to play with.
- Create silly pictures by mixing and matching pictures. Glue a picture of a dog behind the wheel of a car. Talk about what is wrong with the picture and ways to “fix” it. Count items pictured in the book.
- Help your child understand and ask questions. Play the yes-no game. Ask questions such as “Are you a boy?” “Are you Marty?” “Can a pig fly?” Encourage your child to make up questions and try to fool you.
- Ask questions that require a choice. “Do you want an apple or an orange?” “Do you want to wear your red or blue shirt?”
- Expand vocabulary. Name body parts, and identify what you do with them. “This is my nose. I can smell flowers, brownies, popcorn, and soap.”
- Sing simple songs and recite nursery rhymes to show the rhythm and pattern of speech.
- Place familiar objects in a container. Have your child remove the object and tell you what it is called and how to use it. “This is my ball. I bounce it. I play with it.”
- Use photographs of familiar people and places, and retell what happened or make up a new story.
4 to 6 Years
- When your child starts a conversation, give your full attention whenever possible.
- Make sure that you have your child’s attention before you speak.
- Acknowledge, encourage, and praise all attempts to speak.
- Show that you understand the word or phrase by fulfilling the request, if appropriate.
- Pause after speaking. This gives your child a chance to continue the conversation.
- Continue to build vocabulary. Introduce a new word and offer its definition, or use it in a context that is easily understood. This may be done in an exaggerated, humorous manner. “I think I will drive the vehicle to the store. I am too tired to walk.”
- Talk about spatial relationships (first, middle, and last; right and left) and opposites (up and down; on and off).
- Offer a description or clues, and have your child identify what you are describing: “We use it to sweep the floor” (a broom). “It is cold, sweet, and good for dessert. I like strawberry” (ice cream).
- Work on forming and explaining categories. Identify the thing that does not belong in a group of similar objects: “A shoe does not belong with an apple and an orange because you can’t eat it; it is not round; it is not a fruit.”
- Help your child follow two- and three-step directions: “Go to your room, and bring me your book.”
- Encourage your child to give directions. Follow his or her directions as he or she explains how to build a tower of blocks.
- Play games with your child such as “house.” Exchange roles in the family, with your pretending to be the child. Talk about the different rooms and furnishings in the house.
- The television also can serve as a valuable tool. Talk about what the child is watching. Have him or her guess what might happen next. Talk about the characters. Are they happy or sad? Ask your child to tell you what has happened in the story. Act out a scene together, and make up a different ending.
- Take advantage of daily activities. For example, while in the kitchen, encourage your child to name the utensils needed. Discuss the foods on the menu, their color, texture, and taste. Where does the food come from? Which foods do you like? Which do you dislike? Who will clean up? Emphasize the use of prepositions by asking him or her to put the napkin on the table, in your lap, or under the spoon. Identify who the napkin belongs to: “It is my napkin.” “It is Daddy’s.” “It is John’s.”
- While shopping for groceries, discuss what you will buy, how many you need, and what you will make. Discuss the size (large or small), shape (long, round, square), and weight (heavy or light) of the packages.
No matter how young or old your child is, you should be able to understand a certain amount of what they say all the time.
We call this speech intelligibility.
Intelligible to a stranger
Typical Speech Development in Children
By the following ages, children should be able to say the corresponding sounds:
h w m n b p f
d t k g y ng
At this age a child may still have errors on the r, s, z and th sounds, but they should be developing.
l v sh ch j
A child should be able to say ALL sounds correctly including:
r s z th(thin) th(that)
TREAT YOUR CHILD AS A FULL COMMUNICATION PARTNER
This can be tricky to balance. You need to talk to them as if they are adults but still remember they are children.
Talking with them like an adult doesn’t mean use adult vocabulary, jokes, or information they won’t understand. It means take turns, use eye contact, and value what they say.
As for younger children, there will many times they say something you don’t understand (gibberish), but again, take your turn, make your best guess about what they are talking about and reply to them…..even if you’re not sure what they’re talking about.
Don’t talk to them in baby talk all the time. It’s O.K. every now and again, but after they are about 9 months old, try to limit how much you do it.
BE A GOOD SPEAKING MODEL
If you want to build strong speech and language skills in your child, you need to show that you have skills yourself. A good rule of thumb for how to improve communication skills is to talk slightly above your child’s level.That way they will be stretched enough to keep building their skills.
TURN OFF THE TV
Just remember the less time you have the TV on, the less time your child will expect it to be on. This can help with behavior in the long run too.
This will help your child expand their imagination, learn to entertain themselves, and consequently strengthen their language skills.
Read the back of the cereal box, people’s shirts, and signs on the street. The more exposure your child has to speech sounds and language structure, the sooner they will begin to understand it.When reading books, keep in mind you don’t have to read them word for word...simply look at the pictures and talk about what you see. For example…
When reading Cinderella, you might say “Oh no she lost her shoe” or “those mice turned into horses”, etc.
This accomplishes two things.
- Your child learns to use their imagination.
- Your child builds/strengthens his/her receptive and expressive language skills.
Try to read at least one book a day.
ASK OPEN ENDED QUESTIONS
Open ended questions are when the answer can be a variety of things and not answered by “yes” or “no”. These questions will teach your child how to think “hard” and reason for themselves.Here are some examples of how to turn simple questions into open ended ones:
Question: Did you go to the store?
Open Ended: Where did you go?
Follow Up Question: What did you see?
Question: Was that book good?
Open Ended: What did you like about that book?
Follow Up Question: How would you change the book?
“Tell me about…” is my favorite phrase to use when I focus on language skills.
REPEAT WORDS OFTEN
Especially when your children are young. They need to hear sounds and words at least 100 times before they will even start trying to say it. Don’t limit how many times you say the same word.
Repetition is the key to learning…..and it is how to improve communication skills.
DRAW CONCLUSIONS / EXPLAIN CONSEQUENCES
The earlier you teach your children this concept, the better. When something happens or they do something wrong, help them understand why.
Example for a younger child: Child stands on chair, falls off, and starts to cry (assuming they didn’t really injure themselves)
A parent could say: “You fell down” or “You got hurt”, “You shouldn’t stand on chairs”
Example for an older child: Child doesn’t tell you where they were going.
A parent could say: “What could happen if you get hurt and I don’t know where you are?”
PRAISE YOUR CHILD FOR TALKING
This is another one that needs to be balanced. You don’t need to tell your child how great they are talking after everything they say.Space it out. Tell them at least a few times a day. More when they’re younger.
For younger children:
When they call something by the right name, say “Nice talking” or “You’re right that is a…” or “You are such a good talker”
For older children:
You might compliment them when they use a new vocabulary word that you modeled for them. You might say, “Hey, look at you using such a big vocabulary.”
You can praise them for solving a problem on their own or if you notice they say a complex or grammatically correct sentence by saying…
- “You solved that all on your own”
- “I like how you thought that through”
- “That was an impressive sentence”