Time at home can be busy, so, how can we make the time our child is at home as communication-friendly as possible.
Below are some simple tips for a communication-friendly home that can have a significant impact. I’ve also shared some examples of how I try to do this with my family.
Make time for chatting in family routines
Parents and children are busy most of the day and it’s not always easy or realistic to find a quiet moment to share. So, schedule it into your everyday routine. Sit with your child and chat with them when they take a bath; as you cook, chat with them about what you’re doing; or ask your teenager about their day on the drive home from school.
What I do: I take my one-year-old out on our bike at the end of a workday. I chat with her about what I see, she points to dogs and cars, and I name them for her. We wave at ducks and practice duck sounds.
Make things visual
Symbols, pictures, words, and signs help children benefit from their visual environment. Add pictures to their chest of drawers to help them find their clothes, display the day’s structure on a picture timetable, and use signs when giving instructions. Babies and toddlers also benefit from pictures and symbols.
What I do: I have started using simple baby signs/Makaton with my one-year-old to help her understand and communicate “finished,” “more,” “food,” “drink,” and “stop.”
Put half of their toys away
Children often have more toys than they need. Too many toys are sometimes ignored and unused. Choose some toys to put away. Help them play with only a few things at a time, and when you swap the toys later they’ll enjoy them more. Store the toys in a way that creates an opportunity for your child to request your help. Put some toys out of reach, in a container they can’t open, or without battery power. These create great communication opportunities for your child to seek out and ask for help.
What I do: I divided my daughter’s toys into three shoe boxes. Each day I give her access to one of the boxes, and I rotate the box each day. This gives her a more focused selection, keeps her toys fresh and interesting, and it gives me less to clean up!
Be aware of background noise
Schedule periods in the day when the TV, radio, or podcast is off. Children learn so much of their vocabulary by listening to conversations at home. Even if your child is playing on their own, they will listen and learn language. Keeping the background noise level down helps them hear and take part.
What I do: I have tried to be more intentional about times to “tune in” and “tune out.” So, after breakfast, we have some “tune out” time. The TV might be on and my daughter plays and entertains herself while I wash up or get some things done. Then, I turn it all off and “tune in,” and get down on the carpet and engage in intentional play and conversation with her. We both get time to chill and get things done, and also time to play and communicate.
Everyone has a voice
The youngest or least confident communicator can often get lost. These kids often need support to make their voices heard. They know what they want to say, but can’t always find the word. They may struggle to remember how to make sounds or have difficulty following the conversation to know when to speak up. Encourage turn-taking in your family, give everyone a chance to speak, and discourage interrupting and speaking over others.
What I do: My daughter doesn’t have words yet, but she can wave, touch her nose, and pat her head. Even so, she needs plenty of time to remember how to do them and carry them out. When I prompt her to wave “bye-bye” she often doesn’t, but will finally wave five minutes later when we are in the car.
Encouraging your kids to communicate is a great thing and adds enrichment everyday. So, as parents, when you know how to enable them to do so is a great thing. As you remember the tips and practice them, you’ll see that it will help you in creating a communication-friendly environment in your home. Besides, the joy it brings is a reward in itself!
About the Guest Author
El Robertson is a Community Paediatric Specialist Speech and Language Therapist. She works in schools and clinics in Hertfordshire, UK, with a range of parents, children, and education professionals to support children’s speech and language and increase their functional communication skills. She joined Speech Blubs to help them develop better content for children and write educational articles for the Speech Blubs Blog.