What is Communication and Why Is It Important?

From Caring For Infants and Toddlers - Volume I

    According to Chapter 6 in Caring for Infants and Toddlers, to communicate means to express and share ideas, desires and feelings with other people.  In young babies communication can be recognized by their cries, smiles, coos.  Most infants, according to this chapter are saying a word or two by the time they are at the end of their first year.

    As adults, besides, words and gestures, we also communicate through images and pictures, which can represent ideas and feelings.  While all communication is important, the ability to communicate through spoken language is most significant.  Without spoken language our communication is restricted to some degree.

    Communication skills in a child are built by being around caring adults who communicate with them and respond to their efforts to communicate.  Just by talking to a toddler or an infant can encourage them to communicate.  In order to help children develop listening and speaking skills, storytelling, books, poems, finger plays, songs and records should be utilized.

    Caregivers can:

    Also caregivers can provide materials and activities that promote communication skills by playing peek-a-boo, using puppets, creating small activities for children to playa together, commenting o what children are doing and experiencing, posing questions, encouraging dramatic play by pulling out real props, making picture labels for toys and materials, writing children's dictation and labeling their drawings when they go along wit your idea to write.  A caregiver can ask the child, "What would you like me to write?"

    To help infants and toddlers develop listening and speaking skill a caregiver can talk often in normal voice and use adult language.  The authors of this chapter feel that using what we know as "baby talk" sends the wrong message to young children who are trying to learn how language really works. Caregivers should encourage children to identify pictures in a book, listen to and identify sounds in their environment, make books about topics that are important to children, familiarize yourself with the language of the children whose language might be different from yours.  As a caregiver you can take advantage of the different languages spoken by children's families to enrich you language environment, by saying something like "Hai;s sister is taking with her in Vietnamese.  Let's ask them to teach us a few words."  Also, if you take notice of a child's speech pattern and notice any impairments, these should be reported for the purpose of assessment.

    Since communication skills are central to our ability to relate to others, in order to understand what other have to say, we need to do three things:

    To avoid messages being misinterpreted we should use question that help clarify  the message, such as:

    Caregivers should use their knowledge of Infant and toddler development to promote communication skills by sharing our pleasure and excitement at first words, because our enthusiasm will encourage an infant to learn words.  Modeling speech is an excellent way to improve a child's communication skills, as well as reading books and encouraging writing.  Caregivers should read simple stories with pictures about things toddlers know.

    Since we know that infants and toddlers develop communication skills by being around adults who respond to them and talk to them, we should strive to develop a trusting, responsive relationship with each child.

    In summary, this chapter encourages the following things to develop communication skills in toddlers and infants: