Ideas for encouraging communication


For under fives, the best way to encourage communication is through play. Try to play for 5-10 minutes each day with your child. Make sure the environment is free of distractions (TV, phones, ipad) and let your child choose a game that you can play with together, such as building bricks, the train track or the toy kitchen/food.

Use the tips below to encourage communication:

  • Let your child choose the toy or activity during free play
  • Follow your child’s lead with a toy or activity
  • Sit where your child can see your face.
  • Vary your tone of voice to make what you are saying sound interesting.
  • Talk about what your child is doing (commenting on their play, e.g. “teddy’s drinking juice”, “you’re pushing the car”).
  • Wait for your child to talk
  • Listen to what your child says
  • Expand on what your child says by adding one word, e.g. if they say “car”, you say “car driving” or “red car”.
  • Reduce the number of questions you ask.
  • Give lots of praise.

Primary School

During primary school, your child will be learning lots of new words and concepts. Good communication is two-way and requires good listening skills. To help a child, you will need to demonstrate good listening skills yourself. Make sure that you have time for this in your day. You can help your child to develop their communication by:

  • Helping them to learn new words, such as words to do with positions (next to, further, closest), times (earlier, later) and size (big, large, small, tiny). 
  • A child's understanding of words will be growing. Help them to understand new words they learn. And make sure they are not afraid to ask if they don't understand a word. If you don't know the exact meaning of a word - look it up in a dictionary or online. If they don’t know what a word means, encourage them to ask you and explain it to them.
  • Make time to talk about your day - ask open questions like ‘tell me something you liked about today’.
  • Just by having good conversations with children, you are supporting their language. So talk to them. Ask them how their day at school was, and how their friends are. Hopefully they don't need too much encouragement to talk. Try to encourage conversations (two way) rather than just talking.

Secondary School 

By the time they reach secondary school, young people will be developing their understanding of how to use language in different social situations. They will be learning about figurative language (e.g. it’s raining cats and dogs) and developing their problem solving and organisational skills. There are lots of ways to help young people develop their language at this stage:

  • Encourage opportunities to talk without making them feel under pressure. 
  • Use opportunities for chatting, like mealtimes. 
  • Give everyone a chance to talk about their day, including you.
  • Help by explaining any words or phrases that they don’t understand.
  • Show that you are interested by making time to listen.
  • If you are finding it difficult to engage a young person in conversation, you could have a “talking box” so that they can write/draw their concerns or feelings, or things that make them happy. Then you can empty the box together at the end of the week and talk together about what they’ve written.