As a brain training coach, a teacher and a parent myself, I am passionate about helping children reach their potential in different aspects and according to each of their own needs. Even more, I am excited to help parents help their own children achieve that potential. I am a firm believer that parents are the first teachers and models in their homes for their children. Years of experience in the education field have taught me that, the most rewarding thing for me, is when I hear a word of hope coming from a parent’s mouth, telling me that they saw “improvement” in their child’s social interaction, or in their language and communication skills, or in the way they manage their own emotions… In today’s world, we parents know that developing language and communication skills in children is of utmost importance, but what is the significance of all of this? Why is it so important for parents to get involved? And what can parents actually do at home to improve their children’s social interaction and communication skills? I would like to explore these areas here in this article, and more of the subject in upcoming articles on topics such as: How do I become my child’s model for communication? How can I help my child improve his/her communication style? Why are certain games a particular good way to help children develop their language and social skills for good communication? And which games and activities can parents easily use, or even make, at home? So, stay tuned…
In this article, I would like to look at the first 3 questions: What do we know about the importance of developing language and communication skills in children? Why is it important for parents to get involved? And what can parents actually do at home to improve their children’s social interaction and communication skills?
The Importance of Communication skills in Child Development
As we parents all understand, teaching effective communication skills to children can help them express themselves clearly and also convey their feelings appropriately. It is known that great communication skills in our children can enhance classroom learning and participation, enable effective exchange of information with peers, as well as promote social interactions and help them build solid relationships with others. In the English language we write what we say. Unlike some other languages or dialects, where the spoken is quite different from the written form. So good verbal communication in English often also means good written communication, and hence better academic performance at school. Not always, but usually. Simply having an enlarged vocabulary can often enable children to make connections more easily when learning different subjects and become more successful in higher level thinking. On the other hand, children that lack social, language, or communication skills may not only experience a lower rate of academic success, but as a result, some children may even develop low self-esteem, social withdrawal, or even depression in their teen years or later in life.
So, Why Parents?
Why is it paramount that parents should get involved? You may be right in thinking that the school has a big responsibility in educating your child, and in helping them do well academically, socially, and emotionally. But the truth is, the parent is the first teacher in the home. Way before your child starts to go to school, you are already teaching your baby and your toddler countless invaluable lessons on language, phonics and Math. Even just while you are teaching them to utter their first sounds, say their first sentences, or instructing them to lay the table, or to pick out pairs of socks and put them in the bottom drawer (not the top drawer), the one next to the bed (not the one on the left), etc… you are already preparing them for every success for when they enter Kindergarten where they will have to deal with sounds, and sentence structures, and counting doubles, and locations, and prepositions, etc… You are also preparing them for when they start to parallel-play, and then eventually develop “real” social relationships through more complicated language and communication in social and cooperative play. Parents have every reason to continue to invest time and effort in guiding and helping their children in the process of developing their communication skills, which include their language skills and social skills – at home. Because there are simply plenty of ways and opportunities to do that, just at home, you and your child.
Use Games To Develop Your Child’s Communication Skills. But why?
Instead of direct teaching, use games and other fun activities, to help your child practice using feeling words or other vocabulary, or proper grammar or sentence structures. Save your direct teaching for when you help them with their homework or reviews for their tests. Any other time, use games. To most children, games are just for playing and having fun. Even for most of us parents. When we think about “playing” games with our children, we think about playing and just having fun. There is nothing wrong with killing time or just having some good bonding time. But educators all over the world have long been using fun games and activities to teach language, social, and communication skills. Because they know, that children learn best when they are “playing”, and when they are “having fun”. Or, sometimes when they “think” they are “playing” 🙂 (Shhhh! DO NOT EVER tell your 4-year-old they are “learning” when they think they are just “playing”!) And, since parents are the first educators in their homes, and since children love to play and to have fun, then let’s play and have fun! And learn! Let’s play and have fun and learn at the same time!
How To Use a Magic Speaking Wand To Improve Your Child’s Conversation Etiquette
There are hundreds of games that we can use, but I am just going to start you off with the seemingly most simple activity here – using a magic speaking wand to help you help your child practice conversation etiquette. It is exceedingly important, but sometimes close to impossible, to teach your child not to continuously interrupt during other people’s conversations, that is, without a magic conversation wand, or a magic “speaking” wand. Call it however you want. Especially if you have more than one child, interrupted conversations could just become a “new normal” in your home… Nevertheless, this is how a magic conversation wand, or a magic “speaking” wand, could work: During a discussion session, or maybe even just dinner time, or perhaps any other social situation where you have more than one person wanting to be the star of the conversations, have the person that is talking hold onto the magic wand. No one else can speak. Only the person holding the magic speaking wand can speak. Once the first person is done, they hand the wand over to the next person that wants to add to the conversation, or start a new conversation topic. Again, only the person holding the wand can speak. And no one can hold on to the wand for more than, say, a certain number of minutes, which you will need to decide beforehand, or you can have your child/children help you make the decision together. Well, if you do not have a princess fairy at home, you may not be in possession of a ready-made magic wand. But, you can always make your own wand using a stick (or in my case, a very long chopstick:), a paper star, and some scotch tape to tape it together. You can even cut out your own star from construction paper. You can add some white glue if you want them to stick together better, and be more sturdy and more long-lasting. Alternatively, you can simply use any other object such as a small stuffed toy, or even a scrunched up paper ball for older kids, in place of a wand.
This magic speaking wand here can work like magic, but only if you explain the rule very clearly, that ONLY the person holding the wand can speak. And that you are not supposed to hold on to the wand for more than, let’s say, one minute at a time. AND if you make this into a “game” – a fun game that everyone should engage in, to make your family discussions, or even meal times, a lot more manageable, sane, and enjoyable. One great thing to do, is to involve your child in the process of choosing the materials and in making the “wand”, or any other “speaking” tool that they may want to make and use. Be flexible, be creative. What’s even better, encourage your child to be creative.