Importance of Conversational Skills for Children

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As an introverted child, I was always hesitant to make small talk with my extended family members and cousins. I used to take a backseat for initiating a conversation with them. However, I have been a keen observer, listener, and introspective person since childhood. During the self-discovery process, I learned that communicating thoughts, and emotions with each other is crucial for building interpersonal relationships.

Hence, developing conversational skills from an early age will make us effective communicators in life. Now, many of us must be wondering how to teach conversational skills to our children as this skill helps them to gain confidence and sustain relationships. Let’s throw light on various ways of building conversational skills.

  1. Imitation – Modelling and Repetition

Practicing imitation teaches back-and-forth communication to your baby. They copy your actions, sounds, and words. Infants usually master non-verbal imitation like clapping hands etc.’’ before starting verbalization (sounds of car, dog,) and words (dada, tata). One can model words to your child during playtime as it promotes early language development. For example, when your child plays with a car, teach them words like Vroom! Beep! 

2. Role-Play

Older children learn best through pretend play. Siblings or friends can be given different situations for a conversation during playtime.  For example, student and librarian, shopkeeper and customer, doctor and patient, etc.’’  While practicing the role plays, children develop not only language skills but also communication skills. Moreover, conversation encourages social interaction and collaboration between peers.

3. Expanding Vocabulary 

Children learn some active vocabulary naturally and subconsciously during the conversation with their parents, peers, and teachers.

However, they can expand their vocabulary by mastering targeted keywords and phrases used in a given situation. For example, in a restaurant scene, children are introduced to words like main course, dessert, starter, waiter, bill, menu, and phrases like making a reservation, placing an order, enjoy your meal, etc.’’

Hence, this is how role-play helps children retain new words and phrases in their minds as they enact them enthusiastically. Always remember to introduce the keywords, phrases, and their meanings before starting the role-play to the children.  This clarifies to them how and where to use the words correctly.  

4. Asking Questions

One effective way of starting a conversation is by asking questions. There are two question types that are important for sustaining a conversation. To know more about your little one’s passion or interests, it is always better to ask open-ended questions. 

Firstly, one can initiate a conversation with a question. Conversation starter questions get kids talking during dinner time, or playtime, etc.” For example, how is your favorite book going? 

Secondly, asking follow-up questions keeps the conversation going.  For example, if a child is drawing a car, one can inquire about the car brand, its logo, and features.   Hence, asking the right questions is important as it sustains the interest and enthusiasm of the child in the conversation. 

5. Turn Taking

Turn-taking and active listening are integral parts of conversational skills. Moreover, children thinking and choosing words carefully before speaking will impact their communication with their peers. Hence, they will learn to have a respectful dialogue with each other. 

When you listen actively and give undivided attention to your child, they feel heard and think that you’re interested in what they have to say. Eventually, they will learn to do the same with their peers. You can play games to instill active listening in your child. For example, Read Stories, Simon Says, Musical Chairs, etc.”

6. Body Language

Body language includes facial expressions and hand gestures. We need to teach children how to take cues from their peers’ facial expressions, and gestures so that they know how to speak with them accordingly.  Playing charades is a good activity for teaching body language in a fun way.  You can ask a sibling to act out a word or a phrase, and others will guess it. For example, a confused face, digging a hole action, etc.”

Final Thoughts

Making conversation with family members or peers must become a habit for children.  Only through continuous practice can one excel in spontaneous speaking in a conversation.  

-Haritha Atluri is an educator in phonics, and language, and a passionate education writer with 9 years’ experience. She specializes in adult communication and children’s phonics.

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