We start communicating from the time we’re born, heralding our arrival with a wail – but that’s just the first step in our communication journey, as we learn to engage with our parents, our friends, our teachers, and others.
It’s worth remembering that nurturing effective communication with your children is about so much more than the humdrum of daily routines – it also helps grow their skills, makes them feel safe and secure, and helps them develop strong and intuitive relationships with people outside the family.
With the 2020 LEGO® Play Well Study highlighting that 96% of parents say that play facilitates communication with their child, and 88% of children saying that play helps their parents get to know them better, these five ideas to build communication skills are a great place to start:
- Play ‘chatting catch’. Toss a ball or bean bag between you, with the throwing person asking a question while it’s in the air, and the catching person answering the question when they catch it. This will distract your child from the awkwardness or shyness they may be feeling – with the added bonus of boosting their catching and throwing skills!
- Talk about non-verbal communication, or body language. You could do this in a ‘charades’ format by acting an emotion and then asking your child to identify it – they could even show you what they think they look like when they’re feeling that emotion too.
- Play describing games with construction toys, such as ‘What is it?’ and ‘Communication House’ from the LEGO Six Bricks booklet. These games, and others that encourage children to describe what they are doing well enough for their friends to build items based on their descriptions, are great ways to stimulate thoughtful communication.
- Consume content together – whether it’s a TV programme or reading a book together – and then discuss what happened afterwards. Ask questions about the plot, about the characters, and even about how the story made your child feel. Remember to let your child express their thoughts and views about the story – you may even see the world from a completely different perspective!
- Use car time to talk. When you’re doing the school or extra-murals parents’ taxi run, ask your child about their day – but avoid questions that can be answered with that dead-end word – ‘fine’. Ask what the best and worst parts of the day were, or what their favourite activity was – and share those elements of your day too.
Helping your child improve their communication skills could be as simple as talking about what you’re doing as you go about your daily tasks, or it could be as focused as playing a game that’s purpose-designed to improve their confidence and vocabulary. Whichever activity you choose, it’s important to be engaged and to listen to the feedback you’re getting – communication does, after all, go at least two ways!
By Kristian Imhof, country manager for LEGO® in South Africa