Early childhood teachers are overwhelmed with the responsibilities and stresses of the day, but our interaction with children matters. They must be positive and sincere. Even our facial expressions, tone of voice and body language communicate what we feel. Teaching social and emotional skills is one of our biggest responsibilities. Interacting positively with children at all times is challenging, Here are some ways we can demonstrate caring professionalism through careful verbal and nonverbal communication when working with young children.
Verbal communication is oral communication that relays messages through words spoken. In the classroom, educators are continuously using their words to communicate with children to share ideas, and messages and gain an understanding of the child’s thoughts.
Verbal behaviors in the classroom may include the educator saying “Everyone, line up!”, speaking to an individual child about their artwork, or writing a message on paper for a child to read.
Nonverbal communication is “the act of conveying information without the use of words.”
Nonverbal communication is particularly important in early childhood environments because young children’s thinking and behavior are easily shaped by their emotional states.
Educators have a role to communicate positively, and in these experiences, specific and appropriate word choices are important as well as having a kind and respectful tone of voice when talking to children in addition to projecting a kind, patient and safe presence.
Positive Verbal and Nonverbal Behaviors
Use Children’s Names When Speaking
Personalize interactions with children by using their names. Example “Hello Tyler” or “Thank you for sharing with Emily!”
Engage in Frequent Meaningful Conversation
Use open-ended questions to encourage back-and-forth conversation. Tune in by actively listening and responding to information the child has provided.
Educator: “Tell Me about your picture?”
Child: “It’s a big house for my family”
Educator: “Who in your family will live in the house?”
Child: “My mom, sister, uncle and grandma”
Educator: “Wow, five people will live in your big house, you, your mom, sister, uncle, and grandma. That is a big family.”
Speak Politely and Respectfully
Be patient, increase proximity to eliminate yelling, and use concrete language to help children understand. With the English Language having so many terms, many of which sound familiar, it is important to use language that children can understand and limit the use of sarcasm.
Give Specific and Meaningful Praise
Acknowledge the child by tuning in and giving specific praise. Try “I like how you made big circles on your drawing” to be specific and meaningful versus simply saying “I like your picture’ which is very general.
Use Positive Nonverbal Communications
Children pick up on the subtle nuances of facial expressions and tone of voice. Through nonverbal communication, children learn how to relate and get along with other people.
Project a positive influence throughout the day with nonverbal communication and show you care for the children. Smile, make eye contact, and provide physical contact in the form or reassuring hugs or holding if needed. Young children need physical contact to feel safe, loved, and comfortable.