The Best Ways to Develop Communication Skills in Preschoolers
Would you like to help your preschool-aged child develop better communication skills? How do you encourage them to speak, write and convey their thoughts and feelings more effectively?
Communicating with your preschool-aged child is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding albeit challenging aspects of parenting. As parents, we want our kids to be effective communicators from their early childhood years all the way to adulthood.
In this article, we will be talking about (pun intended) the reasons why communication skills matter for preschoolers, how parents can help develop communication skills in young children, and — our personal favourite — how to get your little toddler to start yakking!
Why Do Communication Skills Matter for Preschoolers?
Communication skills are essential for your preschool aged child. Here’s why.
- Better Express Their Needs and Emotions
- Strengthen Social Skills
- Nurture Cognitive and Language Skills
- Do Better in School and in Life
- Prevent Frustration and Behavioral Problems
As young children who depend on adults to help them, preschoolers need to express their needs and wants clearly and concisely — be that verbally or non-verbally. Communicating well also helps them to be more confident and secure as they navigate the world around them.
Preschoolers need to communicate effectively with their peers and adults in order to build positive relationships and make friends. It also helps them to appreciate social cues like eye contact, tone of voice, and body language.
The right combinations of spoken, written, interpersonal and non-verbal communication skills further help preschoolers to hone their cognitive (thinking) and language capabilities. By engaging in conversation with and listening to others, they can learn new vocabulary and improve their ability to express themselves.
Effective communicators absorb and understand information more quickly in school or other social settings. They perform better in groups which require relaying information to multiple parties, or getting others to do a particular task.
Poor communication skills often lead to misunderstandings in preschoolers. When young children are unable to express their needs or understand what others are saying, they become upset. Developing strong communication skills can help prevent these issues and promote positive behaviours.
In summary, strong communication skills are critical for your preschooler’s social, cognitive, and emotional development, helping them to succeed in school and beyond.
Types of Communication Skills in Preschoolers
You’re discussing something important with your spouse when your five-year-old spots a fat caterpillar dangling behind you. Ignoring the fact that you’re in a conversation, he starts to pull at your hand. He then shouts excitedly to you about the caterpillar.
While it may not be the most opportune moment, your child is actually developing both verbal and nonverbal communication skills in an effort to share his latest discovery with you.
Beyond verbal communication, there are other types of communication skills that your child will learn growing up. Let us look at each of these in turn.
- Verbal Communication Skills
- Active Listening Skills
- Nonverbal Communication Skills
- Social Skills/ Interpersonal Skills
- Written Communication Skills
A child’s verbal communication skills include their ability to use language to express their needs and wants, understand and follow instructions, engage in conversation, and use appropriate grammar and vocabulary.
As children develop, their verbal communication skills should progress from basic communication to more complex language skills such as storytelling, debating, and explaining ideas.
Your seven-year-old has a story to share. Midway through, your five-year-old starts pitching in on his side of the story. Exactly three seconds after, your two-year-old starts babbling excitedly in baby talk.
All three rushes to speak — each feels that their story is the most important. No one wants to listen!
To prevent this scenario, you need to develop active listening skills in your children. Begin by modelling active listening behaviours yourself, such as making eye contact, nodding, and responding appropriately when your child speaks. Encourage your child to listen actively by asking open-ended questions, and showing interest in what they have to say.
Nonverbal communication involves using facial expressions, eye contact and body language — such as crossed arms, nodding, or smiling. For example, when you hug your child frequently to show love, your child will eventually learn how to express love via hugging.
They are important for expressing emotions, understanding others’ feelings, and interpreting social cues. Often nonverbal communication tends to convey a person’s real emotions and feelings — it’s not what you say but what you do that matters!
Social or interpersonal skills allow your child to mix and interact with other children better. They learn to show empathy, work as a team member, and also share their toys.
Your child may also show social skills by participating in group activities, engaging in conversation with others, and following social norms such as raising their hand to speak or waiting their turn to speak.
To strengthen your child’s social skills, consider exhibiting positive social behaviours yourself. Be polite in dealing with others, show empathy, and resolve conflicts in a calm and respectful manner.
Have you experienced your child writing notes to you? It is likely to involve lopsided alphabets and spelling mistakes, but the meaning and essence of the written words are clear. “I love mummy and daddy” are usually the most popular messages written by children (and the type we never tire of receiving!)
Examples of written communication skills in a preschool child include the ability to recognize and write their name, use basic punctuation such as periods and commas, and write simple sentences or phrases. They may also be able to recognize and write some letters of the alphabet and basic sight words.
5 Fun Ways to Improve Communication Skills in Preschoolers
Now that you know the types of communication skills your child will be learning, let’s check out some fun activities you can do with your child to improve their communication skills!
- Talk regularly to your child. Discuss things that are meaningful to them, such as what their friends said to them in school and who unfriended whom (in the physical sense!) When talking to them, ask open ended questions such as the following:
a. “Tell me more.”
b. “Why do you think that is so?”
c. “How do you think it works?”
When they want something, do encourage them to express it in words. Over time, they will become comfortable sharing their life events with you.
- Reading and storytelling. Reading picture books, storytelling and even singing nursery rhymes expose your child to speech sounds in a fun way. These activities encourage them to start telling stories of their own while imagining themselves in different roles. When reading books to your child, encourage them to read the words in the story and let them enjoy the different language styles of the stories. After each session, make it a point to ask them questions about the stories they’ve just read or heard.
- Model turn-taking when you have more than one child. This teaches your child the appropriate time to enter a conversation, and builds up their inter-personal and social skills. Do also model such behaviours when you’re communicating with others — remember that your child is watching you!
- Play word games. Games instil discipline and the learning of nonverbal cues as well as the deciphering of body language. Word games expose your child to new vocabulary words and are actually the best way to get your child excited about waiting his turn at a young age. This forms the basis of becoming a good communicator with effective communication skills.Examples of word games suitable for preschoolers include the following:
- I Spy: Choose an object in the room and say “I spy with my little eye something that starts with the letter ___.” The child has to guess the object you are thinking of.
- Alphabet Game: Take turns naming objects that start with each letter of the alphabet. For example, “A is for apple, B is for ball, C is for cat,” and so on.
- Word Scavenger Hunt: Give the child a list of simple words to find around the house or outside, such as “tree,” “chair,” or “book.”
- Create their own storybook. To improve your preschooler’s written skills, encourage them to create their own storybook. Start by providing them with paper and art supplies such as crayons, markers, and stickers. Encourage them to draw pictures that tell a story, and then ask them to narrate the story to you. You can write it together!
How To Get Your Toddler To Talk
All children learn to communicate at different rates and at different times. Helping your little ones to start talking is great. Here’s why…
A study by Dr Frances Glascoe, adjunct professor of paediatrics at Vanderbilt University in East Berlin, revealed that preschoolers who grow up in homes where talking, listening and reading are common tend to have higher IQs and greater success in school.
Why Toddlers Love To Talk
Toddlers do not have much self-regulation at this stage, hence they talk and narrate aloud what would eventually become their inner voice. They can also be very passionate about a certain topic, and will go on and on about it!
This incessant chatter actually helps them to learn to share their feelings, regulate their emotions, and hone their basic communication skills.
Since talking is an essential life skill, being able to control the flow and narrate stories in a logical sequence using an appropriate language are important communication abilities to have.
Seven Wonderful Ways to Get Your Toddler to Talk
Here are some fun ways for you to get your toddler to start talking!
- Expand on your child’s words. For example, if your child says ‘car’, say ‘yes, that’s a big, red car.’
- Ask your child to name anything that they touch or point to. If they are not talking yet, you should use the opportunity to talk about it.
- Read with your child. Picture storytelling and picture books are great places to start.
- Play a fun game, such as the telephone game. Pretend to talk to each other through a receiver.
- When your child is talking, listen, smile and nod encouragement. Give them time to form their words.
- Sing songs and nursery rhymes.
- Give your child choices. Ask her if she wants apple juice or orange juice, for example, and give them the opportunity to answer.
How Shaws Develops Your Child’s Communication Skills
At Shaws, we understand how important it is for children to become effective communicators. That’s why we offer a range of fun activities like group games, singing, reading, and pretend play to help your preschooler interact and get along with others while developing strong communication skills.
Our core preschool curriculum includes both academic and non-academic components. The academic part helps prepare your child for formal school, while the non-academic part focuses on life skills to prepare them for the future.
We value every child and recognize that each child learns at their own pace. That’s why we create activities that encourage all communication skills, including verbal, listening, written, nonverbal and social skills. We encourage your child to speak up, answer questions, think critically, and express themselves in complete sentences. Most importantly, we listen to each and every one of them.
Ready to start your child’s learning journey at Shaws? Come check us out today!