Talking, speaking, saying, telling- synonyms that underline our ability to communicate to the world. The most complex, yet marvelous gift bestowed on us. Lucky me, every day I have the privilege of teaching this skill to a determined group of individuals , who constantly remind me, how much the power to communicate is taken for granted. I believe, we are all entitled to know and understand the intricacies of how this magic works.
For that, we need to understand the foundations of how we learn to communicate from being a baby, to a toddler talking up a storm.
I am using an analogy of building a car, to make you understand the development of communication. In the beginning, a car does not start running on it’s own. It is a meticulous process of assembling all the essential spare parts, that results in a car running in full power. Similarly, in communication, we do not start talking first. Yes, I know you are wondering, that my child communicated for the first time, by calling me ‘mama’. That ‘mama’ is a result of many different spare parts assembled in the child’s brain, which produced the word ‘mama’.
So, what are these spare parts? eye contact, joint attention, play, social skills, listening and understanding. These are the engine, tires, brakes, steering wheel and finally our fuel of love, that propels our children’s journey, and ultimately help them reach their destination—to communicate.
Drum roll! What are the basics to establishing good communication with your child? We will be discussing all the above mentioned milestones in detail in my upcoming posts.
Today, let’s get our attention to ‘Joint Attention‘.
WHAT IS JOINT ATTENTION?
Simple as it sounds, ‘joint‘ meaning it requires at least two people, which is the child and you. ‘Attention‘ referring to look or bring your awareness to something that interests you. So, together it’s about the child and you sharing an experience with each other.
I am sure there are umpteen sharing experiences with our child on a daily basis. Therefore, I recommend, you make these encounters more enriching , by adopting these easy tips and activities mentioned below. You are helping them, make connections to their development of language, speech and social skills.
ACTIVITIES FOR JOINT ATTENTION:
Thank god for Bubbles: Bubbles are the cheapest and best tools for eliciting communication with children. I swear by it!
- First, I blow the bubbles and say ‘look’.
- Then, I point as my daughter tracks the bubbles.
- Then, I pop them and say ‘pop’.
- Next, when my daughter looks at me, I blow more bubbles, repeat the word ‘look’, and point. You can do this as many repetitions as you want, as long as there is a shared enjoyment between you and your child. The important thing to remember here is that, your child should look at you/bubble bottle.
Balloons: All party leftover balloons magically reach my therapy work space. Blow the balloon. Do not tie or let it go. Say ‘look’ and release it when your child looks at you. Then, Let it go, let it gooooo..
Books: Please refer to my previous post “Children are made readers in the laps of their parents”- Emilie Buchwald on reading to your children. You point to the pictures and say ‘look’. Help your child point to pictures. The aim here is for the child to look at you and then the picture. It shows the awareness and interest you are sharing in the same picture and the book.
Cause and effect toys: For e.g. The battery operated toy car. You turn it on, and the effect is that it moves (action- reaction). Next time, remember this formula when you buy toys. I use a hammer and ball game with my daughter. Every time I bang the hammer on the ball, it rolls through a series of slides and reaches the bottom. So, I follow the sequence, say ‘look’–point–bang the ball. The pointing and saying ‘look’ almost happens simultaneously. When she looks at me, I repeat the word ‘look’, point and we are banging away to everyone’s distress. Do we care? No! we are sharing our love for the game.
Get creative and use these strategies explained above in your everyday interactions with your child. Please try and do at least one activity each day. As you get better at it, you will see yourself spontaneously following the ‘joint attention’ pattern.
“To be in your children’s memories tomorrow, you have to be in their lives today”- Anonymous. Spend quality time with your children now.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post. Please leave a comment if you like it and moreover share your experiences with me.