How you talk with children is very important. A vital part of your role is to model appropriate language and encourage the child’s language development. When you engage in conversation or talk with the children, you are helping them to learn how to interact with other people and how to express their thoughts and emotions.
Points to remember when working with children of any age:
- Use respectful and courteous language with the children and with other staff members
- Avoid referring to the children as “you guys”. This is a tough habit to break, but if you are conscious of it you will use it less. “Boys and girls”, “friends”, or “okay, everyone” will work just as well to get the children to pay attention.
- Take care with your pronunciation (watch for “gonna” or “wanna”)
- Use specific and precise language to help children develop a rich vocabulary of words they can understand and say. For example, rather than asking a child to “Please give me that one over there,” you can ask, “Please give me the big red truck with the yellow wheels.”
- Encourage children to experiment and play around with oral language, just as you encourage them to experiment with drawing and writing. Sing songs, recite rhymes, tell jokes, and share long or silly words that you think they might enjoy.
- Be patient with the children and give them time to say what they need to say, rather than finishing sentences for them or immediately responding to their nonverbal cues.
- Address all children and adults by name. This is a sign of respect ad helps the children learn and recognize each others’ names. Try not to refer to children just as “honey,” “sweetie,” etc.
- When we tell children to “use your words” to resolve a conflict, please keep in mind that they may not know what words to use. It is more helpful to model the language that would be appropriate in the situation.