Communication tips for connecting with young children
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Communication tips for connecting with young children

by Freya Lucas

February 29, 2024

Effective communication does more than convey messages and teach skills to children – it also helps them to feel safe and secure, and models important social and emotional skills which will set them up for life. 


In the piece below we share some tips about how early childhood education and care (ECEC) professionals can support children at all ages and stages by practicing effective communication.


Start right, right from the start


Although infants and young toddlers may not have the language skills to verbally communicate, it is vitally important to model positive communication skills as they grow. 


In an ECEC setting, talking to young babies and toddlers about what is happening, what’s coming next, what you can see, how others might be feeling and much more helps them to feel connected and learn more about the world around them. 


Children are ready to communicate from birth, and early communication starts with crying to communicate a need. This soon moves to babbles and gestures before words emerge. 


Educators can encourage communication by talking a lot, tuning in to the sounds, gestures and articulations that babies and young toddlers make, and looking for non verbal cues. 


Reading to children and singing songs also helps them to be “bathed in language.”


Stay in the moment 


ECEC settings are busy places, particularly in the younger rooms. There are nappies to change, bottles to give, sleep routines to be followed, and observations to create. It can be difficult to find an uninterrupted span of time to be in communion with a child. 


That being said, there is power in being present, tuning into a child, and focusing on what they are doing and saying. 


Educators can get involved in children’s play, listening to their noises, gestures and facial expressions, and generally staying in the moment, to learn more about the child and how best to support them. 


Calm in the storm 


It’s often quite easy to be an effective communicator when everything is going well, and the outside distractions are minimal. 


It can be much more difficult to remain calm and kind when feeling stressed or frustrated. Just like adults, when children are feeling sad or angry, they can struggle to express their feelings, and can be more difficult to understand and connect with.


Educators can help to bridge the gap between emotion and understanding for children by giving names to the feelings they are experiencing. 


For example, if you see that a child is angry, you can ask what is making them upset, or make a suggestion; “Are you upset because…” or “I bet it was difficult for you when…”


From there educators can make suggestions about things which might help such as “when I feel angry I like to wind my arms in a circle like this” or “If I am feeling angry, I like a hug to calm down. Would you like a hug?” 


Notice the positives


Part of positive communication comes with noticing success. When babies and young toddlers are learning to navigate the world, particularly when they are pre verbal, it is especially important to notice moments when they are demonstrating pro social behaviours and respond to that. 


In an instance when one child lashes out at another child physically, it might be helpful to say “I can see that you’re frustrated. It’s ok to be frustrated, but it’s not ok to hit. Let’s move over here.”


This positivity also extends to body language. You might turn to smile and nod at a child, for example, showing them with your facial expression and proximity that you are present, connected and noticing. 


Positive body language should also extend to the way that adults in the space communicate with one another – after all children are watching all of these interactions with a view to learning more about how to navigate the world around them. 


To learn more about how to effectively communicate with babies and young toddlers, this resource from ACECQA explores how to recognise and support babies’ and toddlers’ being, belonging and becoming. 

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