We’ve all been victims (and perpetrators!) of bad communication. A misunderstood message can ruin a mood, a day, and even a relationship. Conversely, good communication can heal, improve, and enlighten. When it comes to preschoolers’ communication skills, they have a lot to learn — and parents have a lot to learn from them!
Your preschooler is absorbing communication messages and skills everywhere they go. And at home, you can help strengthen and develop your preschooler’s communication skills with the following tips. (You’re probably already doing many of these!)
Don’t Worry So Much About Correcting Your Preschooler’s Communication Skills
First things first, take a breath and relax. You don’t have to be hyper-vigilant and correct every communication mistake from your child. In fact, it’s best if you let mistaken words slide.
Part of a preschooler’s communication is using the right words for the right things. But this is a skill that takes time to develop. Don’t demand your child repeat a word or phrase until they say it right. This will turn communication into a negative interaction.
Wait a Minute
Part of good communication is hearing what another person has to say. Make sure you’re doing this for your child by waiting five to 10 seconds to let your child respond to a question or conversation.
Not only will this teach your child about respecting the back-and-forth of conversation, it will give your child time to process their thoughts and how to talk about them.
Kids learn through play, and play provides ample opportunity to develop preschool communication skills.
In play, children take on different roles, which requires using different vocabulary. When playing doctor, they’ll use medical terms and when playing school, they’ll use teaching terms. They may use terms incorrectly, but the point is that they’ll expand their vocabulary and their ability to express their thoughts verbally while they play.
Not only that, but when your child plays with another child or with you, they’ll develop critical skills like listening, contributing to conversations, and speaking respectfully.
Model Good Communication Skills
Your child is always watching and learning from what they see you doing. Model good communication skills by talking with and truly listening to your child. Show that you care about what they’re saying by giving them your attention, making eye-contact, and waiting until they’re done speaking before you say something.
11 Fun Ways to Develop Your Preschooler’s Communication Skills
While the above examples are techniques you can incorporate into every day conversation, use these ideas to add some fun to your preschooler’s communication development.
- Play games like Simon Says, Red Light/Green Light, and Mother May I. Dance to The Hokey Pokey, or start a game of I Spy. These games will help your child pay attention to cues.
- Read together. This can never be done too much! Reading exposes your child to new vocabulary and ideas, and helps them learn to think critically. When you read, stop occasionally to ask questions about the story: “What do you think will happen next?” “How do you think this character is feeling?” Keep books and magazines at kid level, so your child can access them whenever they want.
- Watch a show or movie together. Yes, screen time isn’t ideal all the time, but you can use it as an enjoyable tool to help your child develop communication skills when you talk about what you’re watching, ask questions, and create opportunities to take the screen into the real world.
- Cook or bake together. This is an excellent way to improve preschooler’s communication skills, as you read instructions together and follow them.
- Pick a category and identify all the items in view that fit within that category. For example, find everything that is orange, everything that is edible, everything that smells good, and so on. As you play this game, your preschooler will be challenged to learn new words (like edible, for example) and how they relate to the items surrounding them.
- Play guessing games with clues. For example, “I’m thinking of something soft and living. It has long ears and it likes to eat carrots.” Your child will be absorbing vocabulary, while learning to interpret information and speak about it. Ask your child to give you clues next!
- Talk about feelings. Give your child a large emotional vocabulary by naming your feelings. “I’m feeling frustrated that I forgot to pick up milk.” “I’m feeling excited that your birthday is coming up!”
- Create artwork together. Art gives your preschooler the opportunity to describe what they see, what they’re thinking, and what they’re feeling.
- Listen to music together. Discuss the instruments you hear, the lyrics, the tempo, and more. Bring up the emotions you feel.
- Go for a nature walk, looking for specific items. “Let’s find everything that is round/living/green.” This will open up conversations, and it will also add to your child’s vocabulary as they identify different objects.
- Make a photo album together. Pull it out often to discuss the pictures. Let your child do the talking, and prompt them with simple questions to get them going. “Remember the silly thing that happened that day?”
When You Might Need Professional Help with Your Preschooler’s Communication Skills
Trust your intuition, and if you feel your child is struggling or lagging in their communication skills, seek professional help. Your preschool or pediatrician may be able to refer you to a speech-language pathologist.
Some signs of communication problems to watch for in preschoolers:
- Talking very little, or not at all
- Trouble understanding and following directions
- Not speaking in full sentences
- Trouble making certain sounds, like k, g, f, t, d, and n
- Difficulty asking or answering questions
- Poor vocabulary
- Struggling to hold conversations
- Stuttering (repeating words or parts of words)
- Difficulty learning concepts like counting and colors
- Unclear speech
At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we’re committed to helping preschoolers develop communication skills. We watch for signs that a child is struggling and communicate those to parents. Our preschool is also a vocabulary-rich, communication-friendly environment with activities and lessons designed to help children continue to improve in communication. To learn more about us, or to enroll your child, contact us online or give us a call at (801) 523-5930.