Building Interaction Skills
Interacting with your child during your daily routines is the most important step in developing your child’s language skills. Many parents may feel lost in how best to interact and engage with their child. You have already established a connection with your child since he/she was born. Now you just need to build on that connection so that your child can further develop their communication skills.
Below are suggestions that can be implemented to develop interaction skills in early childhood and preschool children. The strategies have been widely researched by the Hanen Centre. Hanen is an evidence-based approach to interacting with your child and developing their language skills. There are lots of ways you can help your child to continue to develop good communication skills when you are playing with him/her.
Let your child lead
When two people communicate back and forth, with or without words, they are taking part in an interaction. The best way to encourage your child to communicate is to let him/her start more interactions with you. Instead of leading or directing the interaction yourself – let your child lead.
Get face to face
During a time when your child is involved with a toy or other activity, get down to the eye level of your child. This allows for you and your child to connect more easily, for both of you to hear and see each other’s messages better and to encourage your child to take the lead.
Owling is an important strategy that you can use with your child throughout an interaction. When you OWL, you create all sorts of opportunities for communication and you may even discover that your child is communicating more than you realised.
Observe: Taking the time to observe your child’s body language-actions, gestures and facial expressions will help you figure out what they are thinking. By really observing how your child communicates, you can learn a lot about what your child is interested in and what she wants to tell you.
Notice what your child is looking at. What items has caught their attention. In what direction are they looking. Discovering what has captured your child’s interest will help you share the moment with him or her.
Waiting: Waiting is an extremely important strategy, it gives your child the time to start an interaction or respond to what you have said or done. Wait means three things: stop talking, lean forward and look at your child expectantly. You need to wait at least 10 seconds for your child to communicate their needs/wants. Give your child enough time to communicate while indicating that you are expecting them to communicate back to you. It does not matter how they communicate – it can be a sound, a word, a body movement or gestures.
Listening: Listening means paying close attention to all of your child’s sounds and words. Take care not to interrupt even if you have already figured out what they are communicating. By listening, your child recognises that the communication is important to you, building confidence and self-esteem.
One of the best ways of connecting with your child is to imitate him/her by copying his/her actions, facial expressions, sounds and words. Start by getting face to face and then do exactly what he/she does. If he/she bangs with a toy on the floor, then you do the same. If he/she makes a sound-repeat the sound using the same rhythm, loudness and tone. If a child produces a word but it is mispronounced - respond by repeating the word correctly but do not ask the child to repeat the word again.
It is important to remember to Repeat, Repeat, Repeat. Repeat new words often and in various situations. The more often your child hears a word the more easily he/she will understand and remember what it means-and the more likely he/she will try to say it.
Asking lots of questions can put unnecessary stress on your child to answer the questions. Therefore, you may lose the opportunity to connect and interact with your child. Make it a conversation. When you talk to your baby comment on what they are doing and what is happening instead. Comment on the colours they see, the actions that are happening around them and the sounds that they may hear.
As your child begins to use words and sounds to communicate with you, add language so that they can hear new words. For example, if your child says “ball”, you can expand their knowledge and vocabulary development by saying “yes that is a big ball” or “the small, yellow ball”.
Play People Games
People games are play routines that involve just you and your child without any toys. Below are some people games which allow each of you to take roles and take turns.
- Hide & Seek
- Bouncy-Bouncy and Horsie Ride
- Gonna-Get-You or Chase
Interacting with your child will not only develop language skills but will strengthen your bond with them. Have fun creating enjoyable and memorable moments with your child!!