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How to Develop a Child's Communication and Social Skills

Updated on February 16, 2015

As parents and adults we instinctively encourage children to communicate when they are babies. We coo and smile at them, we hug and snuggle them, and we reach out to touch their soft skin. This is where communication begins. We do what comes naturally and encourage children to engage and interact with us.

Most children respond. They react to the funny faces and strange noises we make, and eventually they begin to immitate us.We look forward to the day they give us their first smile or mumble their first word. These are important events in a child's development.

If a child avoids engaging with parents, turns away or seems oblivious to noise, consult your pediatrician. These could be signs of autism or another medical concern.

Both nonverbal and verbal communication are important during a child's development. As infants, children engage mainly with their parents, siblings, and caregivers. Interact with your child as much as possible. Talk to them, sing to them, rock them, cuddle them, swing with them, hug and kiss them, and just look at them. All these are ways to communicate with them.

As an infant grows, hold out your hands and encourage them to crawl, scoot, walk. Crawl with them, scoot with them, move with them. These are all forms of nonverbal communication. And remember to encoourage with lots of smiles and verbal praise.

As your infant grows, repeat words and sounds, and look at them while you do this, so they can see how your mouth is forming the word. They will try to immitate, and you should repeat the word. Gradually they will start to make the sound of the word, and through repetition and practice, they begin to learn language.

As infants become toddlers, practice verbal and social skills through play. Children seem to learn best through play, and pretending is a great way to play. Here's a chance to teach your youngster about being polite and taking turns. Pretend to be storekeeper and customer. As the customer hands pretend money for the grocery items, the store keeper says "thank you" and "goodbye", and the customer says "goodbye." Encourage your child to develop social skills through pretend play.

When your child plays with other children, remind them to use good social skills by encouraging them to take turns, use manners, and play nicely. At times, you may have to intervene and model appropriate behavior; that's okay, children learn by immitating what you do.

You can encourage development of social skills by placing your child in a situation where they develop those skills. Take your child to the park and tell them to invite another child to play. Some children may be shy, so you might have to go with them as they invite another child to play. Sometimes, just holding a mom or dad's hand gives the child enough courage to ask another child to swing or play tag.

As your child gains confidence suggest setting up a play date by inviting a friend to come over to play or meeting a friend at the park. Your child should invite a friend s/he is acquainted with, and it's a good idea to communicate with the child's parent about a convenient time for the play date.

Then your child enters school, and many opportunities arise. Besides socializing with children during the school day, your child may be interested in joining a group -- girl scouts, baseball, art club, or whatever. Although you may have to help your child with some of the club activities, the club is a great chance for your child to build social skills. S/he may meet some new friends while acquiring some new skills.

If your child isn't very social, that's okay as long as s/he can and does interact with others. Children sometimes are shy and uncomfortable with people they don't know, and it takes time to develop social skills. Don't force your child to join a group. Remember it's not always easy being a kid because there are so many things to learn!


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