Does it sometimes feel like your pre-schooler talks all the time? That’s normal. Pre-schoolers want to chat to everybody about everything because they’re putting their new language skills together with their unlimited curiosity about the world.
Pre-schooler talking and listening: what to expect
Between the ages of three and five years, you might hear lots of talk and questions from your pre-schooler. This is because pre-schoolers:
need to practice new words, speech sounds and language skills
understand that they are their own person
are constantly fascinated by the world around them
Pre-schoolers communicate through:
lots of talk
body language like gestures and noises
play, particularly make-believe play
painting and craft
When you’re communicating with your pre-schooler, you’ll notice that he can hold longer conversations and use specific words from his growing vocabulary to say what he means. For example, your child can tell you that he’s upset, instead of having a tantrum. This is also because your pre-schooler is developing an understanding of his own feelings and other peoples’ feelings.
You might also hear your pre-schooler telling the same story over and over again. This is because repeating ideas and stories helps pre-schoolers work out what’s going on in the world around them.
Even though their ability to understand your words has developed a lot, pre-schoolers still use your facial expressions, tone of voice and gestures to understand things.
Ideas for talking and listening to pre-schoolers
When you show your child that you’re listening, it sends the message that what your child is thinking and saying is important to you. And this message really builds your relationship with your child.
Here’s how to show your child that you’re listening:
Stop what you’re doing and give your full attention to your child whenever you can
Get down to your child’s level and make eye contact
When your child tells you something, summarise it back to check that you understand what she’s saying
Nod, smile and be affectionate when your child is talking
Try to listen until your child finishes telling a story
Tune in to your child’s body language and behaviour as well as his words. You child’s body language and behaviour can tell you a lot about what he’s trying to communicate. For example, he might be shaking with anger or jumping up and down with delight.
Pre-schoolers love to tell stories! If you need to stop listening during a long story, let your child know. For example, ‘We’re almost at pre-school now. Would you like to finish the story quickly now or tell me the rest later?’
Answering your child’s questions
When you take your child’s questions seriously and take the time to give a real answer, you encourage your child to keep asking questions. This helps your child to learn about the world as she grows and develops.
If you don’t know the answer to your child’s question, you can find out the answer together. For example, you could say ‘That’s a really interesting question – let’s see if we can find out. Can we ask someone we know? Can we look on the internet or find a book at the library?’ This helps to build your child’s research skills so that over time he can find answers himself.
Talking to your child
Your child can use and understand a lot of words, but she still might have trouble understanding what you’re saying sometimes.
Here are some ideas that can help you talk and communicate clearly with your pre-schooler:
Use phrases that show you’re interested. For example, you can say, ‘Really?’, ‘Go on’, or ‘And then what happened?’.
Try to say exactly what you mean. Your child might not understand jokes, exaggeration or sarcasm and you might hurt his feelings.
If your child can’t understand what you’re saying repeat the same message in a couple of different ways. For example, ‘Put your bag on the hook’, or ‘Pick up your bag and hang it on the hook.’.
Help your child learn ‘why’ by explaining things when you’re speaking. For example, ‘We don’t ride bicycles on the road because we might get hit by a car’.
Give your child lots of specific praise and encouragement. For example, ‘Thanks for finishing the story when it was time to eat lunch’.
Make sure your body language and facial expressions match what you’re saying.
Pre-schoolers take things very literally, and interpret things based on the words they hear. They don’t really understand sarcasm or hidden meanings. So it’s a good idea to be careful about how you say things. This can avoid upsetting pre-schoolers who think the joke is on them!
Video: Connecting and communicating with preschoolers
Watch this video and learn the importance of communicating with your preschooler, and how it helps her learn and develop.