5 Ways You Can Teach Infants and Toddlers How to Communicate Better9:45 AM
By Jessica Streit
Communication is a skill everyone needs to learn. Technology is making it easier to connect with others in a less formal way. However, it is imperative that we are still able to effectively communicate face-to-face. In order to do this as an adult, we must teach our children the skills when they are young.
Why not beginning teaching how to communicate right away? Here's 5 lessons you can teach your infants and toddlers that will help them communicate better.
Teaching a baby how to communicate starts very early on. It begins the moment they are born, when the baby cries and his/her parents respond, the baby learns about communication (as well as many other lessons). It continues as the baby ages and begins to make eye contact with the person holding him or her close. Playing games like peak-a-boo while making eye contact and facial expression teach your baby how to communicate.
Another great way to teach your infant to communicate is to teach him or her sign language. You can begin to teach signs at any age but 6-8 months is the ideal age. Kids younger than 6 months don't really understand it and those younger than 8 months do not possess the dexterity to make signs themselves.
Great signs to begin with are those for “eat,” “drink,” “more,” “mom,” “dad,” “thank you,” and “want.” There's many more that would work great. You don't even need to know sign language to introduce it to your child, print out this great basic sign language chart for reference.
Toddlers spend a great deal of their time imitating. They love to watch what big brother or sister are doing. They enjoy copying mom with child-sized tools. What they can't do, is communicate well.
Toddlers are feeling big emotions but haven't yet learned the words to express them. This is when toddler tantrums take hold and turn mom and dad's life upside-down.
Helping your child label their emotions will greatly increase their ability to communicate. When they get angry, label it. For example, saying “you are angry that he took your toy” when a child experiences this will help him or her avoid a tantrum in the future.
You can also help with this by introducing your child to a feelings chart. Have your child point out how they are feeling (start with only a few small options while the child is young, you can add more as they mature) throughout the day. I use a chart like this for my own students when I'm teaching. I prefer to use images of the children making appropriate faces.
Another way to teach toddlers how to communicate is to play games like “Ring Around the Rosie,” “Simon Says,” and “Red Light, Green Light” teach your child to follow directions. Following directions is a very important part of communication.
Finally, be sure to spend time playing with dolls and action figures with your child. Imitate conversations, use feelings words and have the toys communicate well with each other. This will generalize to your child and help them to communicate better with adults and peers.
You may already be doing many things to teach your child how to communicate well. The most important thing you can do, however is to set a good example. Be a role model for good communication while you are talking to the others as well as your child. This will go a long way to making your child an effective communicator.
Jessica Streit is an educator, freelance writer and single mom of 2 boys. Her writing can be found on a variety of topics including personal finance, education and parenting. She blogs about overcoming debt and living a royal life on a budget at The Debt Princess.
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