Three Simple Ways to Help Your Child Develop Strong Communication Skills September 14 2011

Communication skills have never been more important. Children who are comfortable with both written and oral communication have a natural leg up when they start school and that gap only widens through the college years and beyond. Parents can and should help nurture their child’s communication skills from birth onwards to give them the widest range of options in later life.

Here are a few ways that parents can help their children build their verbal abilities and self confidence.

Pretend Play

Playing pretend or make believe is a wonderful way for parents to nurture their child’s imagination while at the same time exercising their ability to tell stories, give and follow directions and explore how people in different roles communicate with each other (parent to parent, teacher to student, boss to employee, and so on).

Encourage your child’s pretend play by providing them with props to support their make-believe worlds. Some good choices are toy kitchen equipment, wooden tools and tool bench, dolls and doll furniture, costumes, puppets and toy animals of every kind. Give them a space that’s all their own where they can be free to let their imagination roam.

Do allow your child to direct the storyline. You can ask them questions to help stretch or challenge their verbal abilities as you play together. Avoid simple yes/no questions and probe into the hows and whys of what is going on in your game.

Strengthen Fine Motor Skills

In many school systems these days, children are expected to go into kindergarten already able to write all of the letters of the alphabet. Children with weak or undeveloped fine motor skills often find themselves losing confidence and falling behind as they struggle to learn to write. Being able to write easily helps children as they move on to composing their own sentences and other written communication. A late start with handwriting can cripple a child’s progress for years to come.

The good news is that you don’t have to spend hours forcing your preschoolers to practice writing to strengthen their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Some fun activities that use both of these skills include:

  • Stringing beads
  • Wooden puzzles
  • Using activity dolls or boards with buckles, laces, buttons and snaps
  • Playing with clay or play dough
  • Making music with toy instruments
  • Other arts and crafts

Help your child develop the fine motor skills he or she will need to move on to writing so that they can have the confidence and skills that they’ll need to when it comes time to start more advanced work in reading and composition.

Play Games together as a Family

For a child, spending time with their parents and older siblings isn’t just a treat, it’s also an opportunity  for them to stretch their verbal and social abilities. Playing board games, cards or doing puzzles as a family is a great way to strengthen family bonds while at the same time helping your child develop more mature communication skills.

Family game nights help children learn the basics of social interactions such as taking turns, cooperation and how to be a good winner or loser. There are even many games available that have a strong focus on on building verbal ability and learning how to communicate with a partner or in a group.

You can even take advantage of time together in the car or at the dinner table to play conversation starter or trivia games, for example the Box Girls sets. These kinds of games help families break the ice and learn more about each other. These games help children learn how to start conversations and how to take turns listening and sharing.

By: Jacob and Carol Maslow.

Jacob and Carol Maslow are proud parents of five pre-teen children. Jacob works for a site that sells the full line of Melissa and Doug Classic Toys and believes real toys don't need batteries. Carol is a certified therapist and specializes in Early Intervention, helping developmentally delayed children integrate. Carol uses the wooden toys from Melissa and Doug as teaching aids.