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October 31, 2013

Learning to Communicate

Within just a few years, children can grow to become very effective communicators, especially when they are nurtured in a language-rich environment. Initially, caretakers respond to infants’ cries, coos, and babbles. Soon after, toddlers gain the ability to use one or two word sentences to communicate wants, needs, and emotions. As little ones continue to develop language at ages 3,4 and beyond, they can become quite the talkers! We sometimes forget how huge of an accomplishment this really is so early in life.blog1

As children are playing, making friends, making requests and sharing their experiences, they are beginning their journey as life-long learners – listening to others, discussing ideas and gaining more knowledge about the world they live in.

Ultimately, their new ability to communicate gives them access to interact with a much bigger audience and ask questions about a much bigger environment. Now they can ask all of those questions about things that they’ve seen, heard, felt, smelled and tasted. They can ask for their opinions and begin to formulate their own.

As teachers, we have a very important job in helping our little learners develop. The foundation for learning how to communicate is first feeling safe, secure and confident. We do this with the warm, inviting, and engaging environments we create in our classrooms, in the warm, compassionate, and patient way we interact with them, and in the way we actively listen to show little ones they are valued and respected.

Here are a few practical ways to enhance communication development in your classroom:blog2

  • Spend time with children individually and in small groups, modeling conversation skills and building vocabulary.
  • Give children appropriate ‘wait time’ to respond to questions or requests. For example, when asking, “Which center would you like to explore?” be sure to allow plenty of time for them to observe, consider, and decide. When asked a question during circle time in front of peers, again, give them time to think. We often jump in and give clues or answers too quickly. Children feel respected when they feel heard.
  • Encourage friendships and projects that thoughtfully pair children with complementary personalities. A hesitant or reserved child can sometimes benefit from an outgoing ‘peer coach!’ Children learn as much about communication from each other as they do from adults.
  • Validate emotions by helping children talk through their frustrations. For example, when a child is on the verge of becoming physical towards another, step in and say, “I cannot let you hurt Olivia, let’s find a quiet place to calm down and talk.” Remind them that you care for them regardless of their behavior: “I understand that you are feeling angry, but I cannot let you hurt anyone and I won’t let anyone hurt you.”

Check out the links below for additional articles for supporting communication skill development:




Contributed by Jennifer Horner, Education Specialist