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Children who speak well feel confident both in the classroom and on the playground. You can encourage your child to feel comfortable speaking in many different situations and with different types of people by focusing on speaking skills at home.
Here are eight ways to raise an articulate child:
Be an avid listener
When your child tells you about her day, put down your newspaper, stop making dinner, and give her your undivided attention. If she feels as if she has center-stage when she talks to you, it will be easier for her to open up.
Use good grammar and appropriate language
Don't dumb down your speech when you talk to her. Children are copycats and will imitate whatever you say – so instill good speech habits early. (And if you don't want her to learn to curse, watch your own language!)
Correct mispronunciations and grammatical errors consistently but discreetly
If your child mispronounces a word or uses an incorrect pronoun, simply repeat the phrase back to her correctly and move on. For example, if she says, "Her hurted me," just say, "Oh, did she hurt you at school today? Tell me what happened." If you dwell on her mistake, you'll only make her more self-conscious about speaking.
Build her vocabulary
The most natural way to do this is to use different words to describe the same object whenever possible. For example, a vehicle can be a car, a truck, or a tractor trailer. English is a very rich language; use synonyms as often as you can.
Ask open-ended questions
If you ask your child, "Did you have a good day at preschool today?" you're asking for a one-word answer. But if you ask, "What did you do after snack today?" you'll inspire her to describe what happened.
Encourage her to "read" aloud
Even though your child is still learning how to decipher letters and words, she can make up stories as she turns the pages in her picture books. Or perhaps she can recite a book that she has memorized to you. (For more on raising a child who loves to read, click here.)
Give your child many chances to talk to adults and older children
To help your child gain confidence talking to grown-ups, let her order food at a fast-food drive-through or place her own order with the waitress at a restaurant. And refrain from answering for her when other adults ask her questions.
Play games that encourage speaking
For a list of ideas, see fun activities to promote speaking skills.