Parents are often excited for their children to start communicating in words and phrases, but first, it is important that children learn to interact before verbal communication happens. An interaction can be a verbal or non-verbal exchange. Here is an example of an interaction: your child cries, you pick them up, your child stops crying. Your child sent a message without words that they wanted to be picked up and you responded. Messages can be sent with sounds (crying or babbling), actions (lifting their arms to be picked up), eye gaze, and facial expressions.
It is important to recognize that communication starts before your child has words. It is in these early interactions that children learn to send messages, respond to them, and take turns.
So how do we, as parents, encourage interaction?
- Keep it fun and follow their lead! Pay attention to what your child is interested in and try and join in.
- Any time your child communicates with you is party time! When your child communicates with you respond immediately and enthusiastically.
- Keep it going! If your child shows interest in continuing the interaction with you don’t stop! The longer the interaction the more opportunities your child will have for communication.