Talking and listening: why it’s good for children
When you make time to talk and listen with your child, they learn that what they think and say is important to you. This makes your relationship stronger and builds your child’s self-esteem and confidence.
Listening and talking together also helps your child learn social skills like listening to others.
What you need for talking and listening with children
You can talk and listen with your child anytime that you’re together.
Making time to talk regularly can be easier if you have a special place to be close or you make a special time to talk each day. For example, you might have a special chair, or you could sit and talk with your child after they get into bed each night.
How to do talking and listening activities with children
- Think about a good time to talk regularly with your child. It might be when you’re walking home from school or preschool, when you’re having a cuddle in an armchair after dinner, or before you read bedtime stories with your child each night.
- Get your child talking by asking open-ended questions like ‘What was something fun you did today?’
- Show interest and encourage your child to talk more by saying things like ‘Tell me more about ...’, ‘Really!’ and ‘Go on ...’. This sends your child the message that what they have to say is important to you.
- Watch your child’s facial expressions and body language. Listening isn’t just about hearing your child’s words, but also about trying to understand what’s behind the words.
- Prompt your child to tell you how they feel about things – for example, ‘It sounds like you felt left out when Felix wanted to play with the other kids at lunch’. If you get something wrong, just ask your child to help you understand.
- Be aware that sometimes your child might want to talk for longer or shorter periods. For example, your child might not be talkative if they’re tired.
Adapting talking and listening activities for children of different ages
Children can understand more and want to talk for longer as they get older.
Your young child might just want to talk about one or two things before getting bored.
Your older child might want to tell you about something specific from school or another part of their day. You can also encourage your older child to listen to you – for example, ‘Do you want to hear what I did today?’ But don’t force your child to listen if it looks like they’re losing interest.