Building Social Language Skills in Preschoolers

Social language skills help children build and navigate relationships with their peers. Caregivers often wonder what social language skills their preschoolers should be practicing to prepare for social interactions at school.

1) Greeting others and introducing themselves.

It is important that a child can greet their peers by saying “hi”, “hello”, or using another greeting that feels comfortable to them. Then they should introduce themselves with a short sentence such as “My name is ____.” This skill is important so that your child has the tools to begin a conversation with new peers. Practice this skill with your child by having them approach familiar people (siblings, cousins, grandparents) with a greeting and an introduction. Do not forget to praise their attempts and successes by telling them that they are doing a great job.

2) Taking turns in conversation.

Just like taking turns in a game is important, so is taking turns in conversation. While we do not often think about it, conversations consist of each person taking a turn to talk. If you notice your child might have a difficult time taking turns in conversation, remind them that talking is like a game. We need to wait for the other person to finish before it is our turn. You may want to provide your child with a visual cue (pointing to your closed lips) to remind them to wait for their turn to talk. As mentioned before, pay close attention to when they are waiting and give them lots of praise for waiting so nicely for their turn to talk.

3) Making eye contact.

Making eye contact with others shows them that you are listening and that you are interested in what they are saying. If you notice that your child’s eye contact is inconsistent, you can remind them that looking at the person talking shows them that you are listening. Pointing to your eyes can also provide the child with a soft reminder to show good eye contact. Give your child a lot of praise when you notice they are using eye contact independently by saying, “Wow! You are doing great looking. Now I know you are listening to all my words.”

4) Listening to and responding to others.

Another way for a someone to know that you are listening to them is to respond appropriately to what they have said. For example, if a peer is talking about a white cat walking outside, and your child responds with “where? I want to see the cat too!”, then their peer knows that they were listening. You can practice this skill with your preschooler by monitoring your own conversations with them. Are they staying on topic? If not, provide gentle reminders about the topic of conversation, and model asking questions and using comments in conversation.

If you have concerns about your child’s social language skills development, contact us to speak with a speech-language professional today. Speech-Language Pathologists are trained to assess and recognize delays in social skills and can offer advice and effective therapy programs to help support your child’s development.