Discover the skills that every child needs.


Discover the skills that every child needs.

What is Communicating?

Children are primed to communicate at birth. Communication skills continue to develop as they grow and learn. Communicating calls on executive function skills, including paying attention in order to determine what we want to communicate (focus); thinking about how our communications will be understood by others (cognitive flexibility); and by substituting what we want to say for another way of expressing ourselves, especially if our original approach isn’t the most effective way to communicate (inhibitory control).

Children build the Life Skill of Communicating when they engage in back and forth conversations – through words, gestures or symbols to indicate what they want to convey – and pay attention to how it will be understood by others so they can continue the conversation. It is the skill teachers and employers feel is most lacking today.

Promoting Communicating

Here are some research-based ways to help children improve the Life Skill of Communicating:

Everyday Routines

  • Throughout the day, act like a sportscaster and narrate what you are doing so the children can attach words and meaning to everyday experiences.
  • Use rich and diverse language—and if you speak more than one language, use that, too!

Playful Learning Activities

  • Ask children to retell an experience by making a drawing or telling a story.
  • Help children identify and label pictures in books.
  • Play a sport or game where children have to respond appropriately to what others do in the game.
  • Invite children to act out characters to tell a story.

Learning Strategies

  • Encourage children to think about what they want to communicate, considering how others will react to what they say.
  • Have children listen to others and practice “give and take” conversations where they take turns talking.

Babies are prepared at birth to listen to language. Moreover, they’ve already learned something about the characteristics of their native language or languages and are prepared to listen accordingly.

Janet F. Werker

University of British Columbia

Get More Tools & Resources to Build This Skill

Skill-Building Book Tips

These free, downloadable resources offer tips for building the Seven Essential Life Skills based on classic and diverse children’s books that promote the skills. Designed for three age groups, infants and toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age, Book Tips are available in English and Spanish.

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Skill-Building Opportunities

Picky Eating, Bedtime Fears, Meltdowns, Constant Crying, Sibling Rivalry! We’ve researched the questions families and teachers most frequently ask and created short free guides, available in English and Spanish, for professionals and families to help turn common behavioral issues into opportunities to promote critical life skills in children.

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