Kids communicate with their parents every day—about a friend’s new lunchbox, a cool rock they spotted on the walk to school, or even what’s going on with their favorite cartoon characters (to name a few of many things they love to tell you daily). Even if the conversation topic seems small, your child wants to share it with you, and that’s a big deal.
In those moments, it’s important to honor that connection and give your child your attention, care, and respect.
Here, we’ll discuss how to communicate with your child and how communication changes as they grow to help you foster successful conversations with them now and as they get older.
The Importance of Communication
So, why is communicating with your child important?
Taking time to effectively communicate with your young child can help them to grow and develop skills they’ll use from early childhood into adulthood.
- Active listening
- How to read nonverbal cues
- How to empathize with others
- How to communicate needs and desires
Communication is also the foundation of any relationship, but especially the relationship between a child and their parent. Kind, respectful, and effective interactions will only strengthen the bond you have with your little one.
What Is Effective Communication?
Before we dive into communication strategies, let’s discuss what effective communication is regarding communicating with your children. In essence, it involves:1
- Encouraging them to talk about whatever they’re feeling
- Giving them your full attention when you’re having a discussion
- Listening to what they’re saying to you, hearing the meaning behind their words, and responding with sensitivity in a way that makes them feel understood
How To Communicate With Children
Some days having meaningful conversations with your little ones feels as easy as breathing, and other days you might feel like you could use a little guidance. Below are a few healthy parenting strategies you can implement to foster effective communication between yourself and your children:2
- Connect with them regularly – To help develop and steer open communication, find time each day to connect with them about their day and understand their experiences. Establish a routine time to connect, such as on the drive to school, after they get home, or during dinner, to help them feel more comfortable opening up.
- Model connection and communication – You can show your child what healthy communication looks like by sharing about your own experiences and how they made you feel. If your child doesn’t feel comfortable talking about an experience, offer other ways to connect—like drawing pictures that show their feelings or using toys to tell the story of their day.
- Actively listen to what they say – As your child shares their feelings or experience, engage with them to show you understand and support them. For example, when they pause after speaking, you can reassure them by repeating part of what they said, and include a follow-up question for them to answer.
- Review body language – Sometimes children may not be fully aware about how their facial expressions and body language can communicate their feelings, too. You can help them grasp various forms of expression and body language by showing them examples and explaining what they mean.
- Read with them – Reading with your little ones every night is a wonderful opportunity to not only share a meaningful experience but also to foster a discussion about what they’re reading—the setting, the choices the characters made, the plot, and more. Give them opportunities to share their emotions and reactions as you read (and share yours, too).
A Level Communication Field: A Note On Talking “Up” or “Down” To Your Child
Whether you’re explaining the fine art of the bunny-ear double-knot or negotiating vegetable consumption, there’s a lot you want to say to your child on a regular basis. The way you convey those messages to your child can make a big difference in their development and their relationship with you.
There are two ways of speaking you should be mindful of as you communicate:
Communicating with your child on their level can help you better understand each other as a whole. But don’t worry about finding the perfect balance between “talking up” and “talking down.” As long as you’re making an effort to communicate to your child in a way that feels appropriate to their age and understanding, you can find a middle ground. Pay attention if they seem like they don’t understand, and listen to how they talk to you, too.
As you communicate, you want to keep your language at or just slightly above their language skills level. This will help your young child understand what you’re saying and feel closer to you. Additionally, there are plenty of affirmations for kids that can help them feel more confident in their self-communication skills.
How Does Communication With Kids Evolve as They Grow?
Whether you’re a brand new parent looking to understand how your newborn communicates or you’re a seasoned veteran with three children, here is a breakdown of how communication changes as kids age:3
Birth to 12 Months (Infants)
Many people are surprised to learn that babies communicate with us all the time. All of their gurgles, coos, grunts, and cries are their way of letting us know their needs. One little (or not so little) noise can let us know whether they’re hungry, happy, sad, or sleepy.
You can encourage their efforts in communication by incorporating some of the following suggestions:
- Use a high-pitched voice and bold facial expressions to hold their attention when they’re cooing or gurgling to you.
- Talk with them during everyday tasks, such as diaper changes, while feeding them, and during playtime.
12 to 36 Months (Toddlers)
Toddlers are in the in-between stages of communication, as they’re not quite babies and not yet preschoolers. They’ll continue to coo and grunt, use facial expressions, and make physical gestures (like pointing). In addition, they’ll begin using one or two-word phrases.
Use some of the following tips to help them improve their communication skills:
- Respond quickly when they speak to you, so they know you’ve heard and appreciated their efforts.
- Build sentences around their one or two-word phrases. For example, if they say “milk,” you can say, “Oh, you’re ready for a bottle of milk?”
3 to 6 Years (Preschoolers)
Children at this age can form grammatically correct sentences, although not always in chronological order. They enjoy using their imagination during playtime and while telling you some very imaginative stories.
Here are some strategies to help them as they improve their communication:
- Encourage them to talk about their feelings.
Give them chances to understand the connection between the spoken and written word. You can label everyday items around the house, like “TV,” “door,” and “bed,” to help bridge the connection.
- Get specific with their words and find opportunities to expand their vocabulary. If your little one points to every four-legged pet in the neighborhood and declares, “kitty!” you can help by gently introducing them to new concepts. “Oh, it looks like a kitty, but look—do you see the tail and the ears? That’s a puppy, and it goes bark, bark, bark!”4
6 to 12 Years (Elementary-Age)
School-age children often elaborate on their stories and ask more questions to adults to better understand the world around them. They can usually absorb more information at once, solve problems, and understand topics from another person’s perspective.
You can help them continue to grow their positive communication skills with the following tips:
- Help them set goals and discuss various problem-solving strategies to help them achieve them.
Teach them conflict management strategies to help them resolve any conflicts they have with their friends or teachers.
- Play word games to help them internalize new vocabulary and meanings.
Let Slumberkins Help You Communicate With Your Little Ones
Communicating with your kiddos takes time and patience on both sides, but it’s so worth the effort. When you attempt to forge a connection with your little one, you help them to increase their vocabulary, communicate more effectively with peers and teachers at school, and strengthen their relationship with you.
Slumberkins is here to help you facilitate healthy and meaningful conversations with your children. Our soft snugglers help children communicate their emotions. Each new friend comes with social emotional learning books crafted just for kids that teach them a variety of lessons (even ones about building a community!). Browse our collection today to find the perfect bundle for your little bundle.
Every talk, chat, and gab session with your little one is special. Start a conversation they’ll love with Slumberkins.
"Communicating well with babies and children: tips." Raising Children. https://raisingchildren.net.au/toddlers/connecting-communicating/communicating/communicating-well-with-children
Welters Wright, Lexi. "10 Ways to Improve Your Grade-Schooler’s Communication Skills." Understood. https://www.understood.org/en/articles/10-ways-to-improve-your-grade-schoolers-communication-skills
Traub, Sarah. "Communicating Effectively With Children." Extension, University of Missouri. https://extension.missouri.edu/publications/gh6123
Knight, Jennifer. "Parent-Child Conversation: More Than Just Idle Chatter." Iowa Reading Research Center. 11 July, 2017. https://iowareadingresearch.org/blog/parent-child-conversation
- Kelly, Katie. "How to Help Your Child Understand Body Language." Understood. https://www.understood.org/en/articles/at-a-glance-helping-your-child-understand-body-language