In this essay I want to explain how effective communication with children requires communication styles and behaviour appropriate to the age of the child.
Understanding how children of different ages communicate and what they like to talk about is crucial for rewarding interaction. Adults must learn to communicate in a way that relates to the age and interests of the child.
I have demonstrated below how to recognise communicational changes with age starting from:
Birth to 12 months:
Infants communicate with coos, gurgles, cries, facial expressions and body movements.
We can quickly respond to infant communication by comforting a crying baby or smile when the child is smiling. We can also talk through verbal expressions of their feelings such as "You are crying, I know it is time for your bottle” or use a sing-song, high-pitched tone of voice during close interaction or alone time. Infants find this fascinating and will in turn help them to keep focused.
We also need to pay attention to an infant's style of expressing emotions. Some infants are quiet and observant and prefer infrequent adult interaction whilst others are emotional, active and seek continuous adult attention and interaction.
Toddlers: 12 to 36 months:
At this stage, children will communicate with a combination of gestures, grunts and one or two word sentences. Additionally, children will start to understand the positive and negative emotions and communication as well as expressions and body movements.
Encourage child communication by responding quickly to a child’s communicative efforts by expanding one or two words into building sentences and using words commonly used by a child in other conversations. Step by step direction and talking through daily routines and emotions in the sequence in which they happen are also a prime factor in communication. We can explain to them that "First we put warm water in the bathtub... then you take off your clothes and get in” or ”when you fall and get hurt, you feel sad, or playing with your friends makes you happy”.
We also use communication during play time, follow their lead and let them create the play. Talk them through what they are doing during play and let them have control. Once play time is over you then need to explain to the child that you want them to tidy up and tell the child WHY you want this to happen. We can explain this by telling them that if you don’t tidy up you might stand on a toy and break it.
3 to 6 years:
From the ages of 3 to 6 children begin to talk in full sentences that are grammatically correct. They may struggle with telling stories in the correct order, but by age 6, sequencing the events of a story comes much more easily.
Encourage communication by asking them questions about past events to help them develop reason and detail. Talk to the children about their feelings, both positive and negative, and discuss the possible causes for the emotions. Participate and encourage in pretend play, either alone or with friends. Provide opportunities for children to experience the connection between the spoken word and the written word by labelling familiar parts of the environment. Try to encourage children to tell you stories and help them to write them down in their own words.
6 to 12 years:
Children at this age talk much more efficiently and similar to adults. They ask more questions, can fully remember their experiences in detail and seek more information and justification for the way things are. They can understand and express their concerns, preferences and needs with regards to themselves and others. School-age children can handle more pieces of information at the same time and with assistance from adults can effectively engage in goal setting and problem solving.
At this age, children spend more time talking and playing with peers and friends but we also need to encourage communication by using…