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Helping Young Children Develop Healthy Communication Skills

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It is essential to recognize that a critical part of early childhood education (ECE) is ensuring that children develop healthy communication skills. The Education Hub notes that the ability to communicate is “crucial to children’s holistic development.” In addition, communication skills lend themselves to social and emotional learning — an underpinning of all instructional expectations in education today.    

5 Differentiated Strategies

Here are five strategies to help children learn and use healthy communication skills.

  1. Activities in Class

    According to Early Years Educator (EYE), teaching healthy communication skills as its own curriculum is a misconception. Instead, the simple flow of the school day is the perfect setting to enhance communication skills. In essence, it can and should be part of the entire school day — an ongoing lesson that spirals into every other activity and assessment.

    These everyday activities can include “sharing books, making up stories, block play, role-play, and outdoor play.” Each one offers a unique opportunity to observe students’ abilities, encourage their correct interpretation of body language or gather their opinion about classroom activities. 

  2. Correction As a Balancing Act

    Scholastic.com argues that everyone, “especially children, must feel a measure of safety and security before they can express themselves freely and openly.” It is easy to correct young students when they are telling a story, with the good intention of molding speech patterns. However, children can become hesitant to share or communicate again because they feel less confident when corrected.

    Instead of a teacher interrupting a child’s story to correct them, they should repeat what the child has said, make corrections, and even when some of the child’s words are changed, try to reinforcing correct usage.

  3. How Caregivers Can Help

    Shared interactive book reading (SIBR) occurs when caregivers and their children read a book together, but with the added benefit of intentionally encouraged curiosity and discussion about the plot, characters, and illustrations. The Interactive Teacher is a proponent of SIBR for several reasons.   

    Interactive or shared reading experiences build sight word recognition and fluency using predictable texts and repeated readings. The goal is to teach students explicitly how to use reading strategies like those for figuring out tricky words; and give students the confidence to apply what they learn to their own reading. Communicating such strategies to parents is invaluable and well-respected by both administrators and the school’s greater learning community.

  4. By Age: From Birth to 4 Years Old

    Infants and toddlers are finding themselves in an increasingly pervasive digital age. Communication experts in early childhood development believe the trend is detrimental if pre-school aged children are to develop the skills they need. These young children might be receiving several minutes of their daily communication needs from an electronic device. Early childhood is a particularly imperative time to start laying the foundation for communication skills between humans.

    The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) defends the position that “it doesn’t take apps, videos, or other special tools to make the most of this crucial time … your everyday interactions with your children help build their brains and support their communication development.”

  5. By Age: From 4 to 8 Years Old

    Having conversations with a school-age child is challenging in that it can feel contrived or rehearsed for some. For caregivers who work, it might be that everyone is tired at the end of the day and conversation is scarce. However, fundamental everyday interactions with this age group matter the most for developing healthy communication skills.

    The daily routine of checking into a child’s day presents numerous opportunities to ask open-ended questions. Understood for All, Inc. encourages caregivers to listen and reflect on what their child says. They suggest following up with a question like, ‘Wow, it sounds like that art project took a lot of patience. What other project do you think would be fun to make?”

When children learn and use healthy communication skills, they are better prepared to develop and progress through life. Experts in ECE pedagogy can create positive learning experiences for children, with educational institutions looking for such specialists to stay at the forefront of their craft. Southern Oregon University offers an online Master of Science in Education with a Concentration in Leadership in Early Childhood Education to prepare for specialized roles.

Learn more about SOU’s MSEd with a Concentration in Leadership in Early Childhood Education online program.

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