To properly understand how to build youth’s communication and language abilities it is necessary to know what is meant by the terms. In Caring for Children in School-Age Programs, communication is defined as, “the expression of ideas, thoughts, and feelings to others.” To adapt another definition from that same source, we can consider language to be a system of words and the rules for their use in speaking, listening, reading, and writing.
It is important to recognize how technology effects how youth communicate. Emailing, texting, and social media are methods prevalent among youth which didn’t exist a generation ago.
In face-to-face interactions, we must also acknowledge the role of nonverbal communication. This includes facial expressions, gestures, body language, and tone of voice.
Youth programs offer unique opportunities for communication and language development. Successful youth workers actively communicate with youth and provide opportunities and support for youth in understanding, acquiring, and use of verbal and nonverbal means of communicating thoughts and feelings. By creating a warm and safe environment for youth, you give them opportunities to express themselves, develop friendships, and build self-esteem.
It is magical to understand how in the first few years of life, infants and toddlers transform crying, sounds, and gestures into recognizable words for expressing meaning. As young children expand their understanding of words and concepts, they develop a framework which will help them understand themselves and the world around them. As such, it becomes essential that staff understand the developmental stages of youth in regards to language and communication.
Learning language depends on a child’s ability to understand words and eventually to read and write them. Below are the general traits of ages 3 through 17. The youngest age group is included because your program may have younger children or youth who are developmentally behind.
Activities to Promote Communication and Language Development:
Click on the name of the activity to go to the website for more detail. Bold letters in parentheses indicate the age group (I = Infant, T = Toddler, P = Preschooler, S = School-ager, A = Adolescent) for which the activity is targeted. Of course, with modifications the activity can be appropriate for other age groups as well.
- Animal Sounds (I,T)
- Ask Questions (I,T)
- Categories (P)
- Clapping (I,T)
- Counting (I,T)
- Color Identification (I,T)
- Directions in 2-3 Steps (P)
- Changing the Leader (match leaders’ facial expressions) (S)
- Emotion Charades (S)
- Explain What You’re Doing (I,T)
- Facial Expressions (I,T)
- Finish the Story (S)
- Fish Bowl (put topics in bowl, draw one, discuss) (S)
- Grocery Shopping (P)
- Guess the Object I’m Describing (P)
- Identify the Object (S)
- New Words (P)
- Nursery Rhymes (I,T)
- Opposites (P)
- Peek-A-Boo (I,T)
- Pictures of Favorite/Familiar People, Places, Things (I,T)
- Play House (P)
- Poetry (S)
- Presentations (S)
- Reading to Children (I,T)
- Repeat Back What Child Says (I,T)
- Repeat Sounds (I,T)
- Sequencing (first, middle, last) (P)
- Shape Identification (I,T)
- Silly Pictures (talk to child about how to “fix”) (I,T)
- Simple Songs (I,T)
- Story Formation (S)
- Telephone Game (S)
- Twenty Questions (S)
- Watch Movies/TV Together and Discuss (P)
- What’s Going on in the Picture? (S)
- The Yes-No Game (I,T)
Toolbox Training Resources: