‘How do we connect with children?’ ‘How do we teach them how to talk?’
One of the most common questions I would be asked as a speech pathologist is: ‘How can you teach my child to talk?’ Without a doubt, whilst working in both the private sector and early childhood intervention services, the main goal of just about every parent was for their child to learn how to ‘talk’. This is completely understandable. Aside from being a crucial life skill which is fundamental on so many different levels, learning how to communicate opens the door to just about everything! Once a child learns how to communicate we learn about their needs, their likes and dislikes, their feelings, passions, fears, and quirks. The list goes on! We learn so much about others through what they say to us.
In my voyage as a speech pathologist and now as a new mother, I often find myself observing other children. I watch them in cafes, in parks, in lines at Woolies, at Laksa King... You name it, I’m watching! I am fascinated by the way they play, the way they communicate, interact with others and how they observe the world around them. I love watching their inquisitiveness and how they interact and communicate with those around them.
Observing the interactions between children and their parents is what interests me the most. What is highlighted to me time and time again is how children are motivated to communicate to those around them during a mutual experience which brings them joy. I see a child come out with a giggle, a squeal of delight, a vocalisation, a word or a sentence when they are enjoying something with someone they love! “Yum!!!” He exclaims as he looks up at Dad handing over his babycino at Luke’s hipster cafe. “A train!!”, he announces, after his Mum excitedly pointed out the Craigieburn line to him. “Wee” she shouts exuberantly as she lands into the arms of Grandpa at the bottom of the slide!
Teachable moments are created when we are connecting with children and sharing enjoyable experiences with them. So back to those earlier questions: ‘How do we connect with children?’ ‘How do we teach them how to talk?’ I would say let’s get back to basics. Focus on sharing something fun together: it might be food, it might be bubbles, splashing in the bath, tickles, a song, a book, a cuddle. Share anything! Find something that makes them happy and be there with them during that time. Smile with them! Laugh with them! It will only do you both good…and you are providing them with teachable moments! These moments will be teaching them how to connect with you and in turn helping them learn how to talk to you! It will be such a rewarding experience for both of you!