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5 Everyday Activities to Improve Pragmatic Language Skills in Children

Most parents want to do whatever they can to help their children succeed. Aside from teaching your children concepts, values, and manners, you should also focus on their pragmatic language skills. There are many different ways to improve pragmatic language skills. In some cases, this may require seeking out professional help. But in other cases, it can be as easy as incorporating a few everyday activities into your child's routine. Here are five examples of activities that can help improve communication ability and expression.


In this article we will discuss:


Teacher teaching pragmatic rules

Pragmatic Language Skills are social language skills

We use social language skills in our daily interactions with others. This includes what we say, how we say it, our non-verbal communication, and how appropriate our interactions are in a given situation.

Pragmatic speech are vital for communicating our personal thoughts, ideas and feelings. Children with difficulties in this area often misinterpret other peoples’ communicative intent and therefore will have difficulty responding appropriately either verbally or non-verbally.


Examples of Pragmatic Skills

To learn more about pragmatic communication, here are a few examples of pragmatic skills that you can work on with your child:


Understanding and using eye contact

Eye contact is important for communication. It helps us to gauge the reactions of the person we are talking to and it lets them know that we are interested in what they have to say.


Research says eye contact is also important for building rapport, trust, and connection. It can be difficult for some children to make and maintain eye contact, but there are ways to help them improve.


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You can start by modeling good eye contact yourself. When you are talking to your child, make sure to look at them directly. You can also point out when other people are making eye contact such as when a cashier is talking to a customer or when two people are having a conversation.


Understanding and using facial expressions

Facial expressions are an important part of communication. They can convey a wide range of emotions from happiness and sadness to anger and fear.


Some children have difficulty understanding and using facial expressions. This can make it difficult for them to understand the emotions of others and to express their own emotions.


You can help your child improve their understanding and use of facial expressions by pointing them out when you see them. You can also use books, movies, and TV shows to discuss different emotions and how they are conveyed through facial expressions.


Knowing when to speak and when to listen

It’s important to know when to speak and when to listen. This is a difficult skill for many children, as they may want to talk all the time or they may not know how to join in a conversation.


You can help your child learn when to speak and when to listen by modeling good listening yourself. When your child is talking, make sure to give them your full attention. You can also teach them to take turns in conversation by saying something like, “It’s my turn to talk now. I want to hear what you have to say.”

Using appropriate volume and tone

The volume and tone of our voice can convey a lot of information. For example, if we speak too loudly, it can show that we are angry. If we speak too softly, it can show that we are sad.


Some children have difficulty using appropriate volume and tone. This can make it difficult for them to understand the emotions of others and to express their own emotions.

You can help your child learn to use appropriate volume and tone by modeling it yourself. You can also help them practice by role-playing different situations, such as answering the phone or talking to a friend.


Children playing together outside

Taking turns in conversation

Taking turns in conversation is an important skill for communication. It shows that we are interested in what the other person has to say and it gives us a chance to share our own thoughts and ideas.


Some children have difficulty taking turns in conversation. This can make it difficult for them to hold a conversation or to understand the back-and-forth nature of communication.


You can help your child learn to take turns in conversation by modeling it yourself. When you are talking to your child, make sure to give them a chance to respond. You can also help them practice by role-playing different conversations, such as ordering food at a restaurant or asking for directions.


Staying on the topic during conversation

Staying on the topic during conversation is an important skill for communication. It shows that we are focused on the discussion and it helps to keep the conversation flowing. Some children have difficulty staying on topic. This can make it difficult for them to hold a conversation or to follow the thread of a discussion.


You can help your child learn to stay on topic by modeling it yourself. When you are talking to your child, make sure to stay on the topic that you are discussing. You can also help them practice by role-playing different conversations, such as ordering food at a restaurant or asking for directions.


Asking questions during a conversation

Asking questions during conversation is an important skill for communication. It shows that we are interested in the discussion and it helps to keep the conversation flowing.


Some children have difficulty asking questions. This can make it difficult for them to hold a conversation or to show interest in what the other person is saying.


You can help your child learn to ask questions by modeling them yourself. When you are talking to your child, make sure to ask them questions about what they are saying. You can also help them practice by role-playing different conversations, such as ordering food at a restaurant or asking for directions.


5 Activities You Can do to Improve your Pragmatic Skills

To improve your child's pragmatic speech, you can do different activities with them to help. Here are five examples:

1. Storytelling

One way to help your child improve their pragmatic language skills is through storytelling. When you tell a story, you are using several different communication skills such as sequence, description, and explanation.


As you tell the story, pay attention to your use of language and try to incorporate some of the same techniques into your telling. For example, if you are describing a character in the story, use adjectives to give more detail about what they look like. You can also ask your child questions about the story as you go along.


Talk about the characters and their emotions about a certain situation. This will help your child understand how to read and react to different pragmatic rules and social cues.


2. Drama play

Another activity that can help your child improve their pragmatic language skills is drama play. This is where your child pretends to be someone else in a given situation. For example, they might pretend to be a doctor in an exam room or a customer in a store. As they play out the scene, they will need to use language appropriately for the role they are taking on.


This is a great way for your child to practice using different types of language and conversation starters. It is also a good way for them to get some experience with non-verbal communication such as eye contact, facial expressions, and body language.


3. Drawing and painting

Another activity that can help your child with their pragmatic language skills is drawing and painting. This is a great way for them to practice using descriptive language.


As they are creating their work of art, they will need to describe what they are doing and what they are trying to create. They may also need to give instructions to others if they are working on a project together. This is a good activity for promoting turn-taking and communication in a group setting. It is also a good way to teach your child to request what materials they want or need.


Child using pragmatic speech to ask for more paint

4. Board games

Board games are another great activity for promoting pragmatic language skills. When playing a game, your child will need to take turns, follow rules, and use language appropriate for the situation. They will also need to pay attention to the other players in order to understand their moves and strategize accordingly.


Games that involve role-playing are especially good for promoting pragmatic language skills. Games such as charades or Pictionary can be great for practicing non-verbal communication.


5. Sports

Sports are also a great activity for promoting pragmatic language skills. When playing sports, your child will need to follow rules, communicate with teammates, and pay attention to the game to be successful. They will also need to use language appropriate for the situation such as cheering on their team or congratulating the other team after a game.


Playing sports is a great way for your child to get some experience using different types of language in a competitive setting. They will learn to balance pragmatic rules such as turn-taking and conversation starters with the need to be successful in the game. This is a great activity for promoting teamwork and cooperation.


These are just a few examples of activities that can help your child improve their pragmatic language skills. Talk to your child’s doctor or speech therapist for more ideas.

And remember, the best way to help your child is to model good communication yourself. So, the next time you are having a conversation, pay attention to your own use of language and non-verbal communication. Your child is watching and learning from you!


When To Seek Professional Help

If you are concerned about your child’s pragmatic language skills, talk to their doctor or a speech therapist. They can help you determine if there is a problem and provide you with resources and strategies to help your child.


Signs that your child may need professional help include:

  • Not responding to their name by 12 months old

  • Not pointing to things or using gestures by 18 months old

  • Not using single words by 2 years old

  • Not using 2-word phrases by 3 years old

  • Not being able to have a conversation by 4 years old

  • Having difficulty understanding jokes, sarcasm, or figurative language

  • Avoiding eye contact or using unusual body language

  • Not understanding the social rules of conversation such as turn-taking

  • Having difficulty making and keeping friends


If you notice any of these signs, talk to your child’s doctor or a speech therapist. They can help you determine if there is a problem and provide you with resources and strategies to help your child.


With the right help and support, your child can improve their pragmatic language skills and communication ability. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you are concerned about your child’s development.


Factors that can affect Pragmatic Development


Culture

There are differences in what is considered appropriate behavior in different cultures. For example, in some cultures it is polite to make eye contact when talking to someone, while in other cultures it is considered rude. It is important to be aware of the cultural norms when teaching pragmatic skills to children.


Language

The language a child is exposed to can also affect their pragmatic speech development. Children who are exposed to more than one language may have difficulty understanding the social rules of each language. For example, a child who is learning English as a second language may use words and phrases literally that are meant to be used figuratively in English. This can lead to misunderstanding and confusion.


Developmental disabilities

Some children with developmental disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or specific language impairment may have difficulty with pragmatic speech skills. These children may need extra help and support to develop these skills.


Children who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders has challenges with social skills, not only with verbal communication but also with nonverbal ones. Autism is a developmental disability that affects how a person perceives the world and interacts with others. It is characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication.


Child with Autism having a hard time understanding pragmatic rules

Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may have problems with impulsivity, hyperactivity, and/or inattention. These symptoms can make it difficult for children to interact with others and follow the social rules of conversation.

Children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI) have difficulty understanding and using language. This can affect their ability to understand the social rules of conversation and how to appropriately respond to others.


Who can help children with Pragmatic Speech Difficulties

If you are concerned about your child's pragmatic language skills, the first step is to talk to their doctor or a speech therapist. They can help you determine if there is a problem and provide you with resources and strategies to help your child.


There are many different professionals who can help children with pragmatic language difficulties:


Speech therapists

Speech therapists can assess your child's communication skills and come up with a treatment plan to help improve their abilities. Speech therapists can offer speech therapy for preschool children and children that are even younger. As well as older children and adolescents. They can also provide you with resources and strategies to use at home.


Speech therapists can also work with your child on specific skills such as turn-taking, eye contact, and body language. They can help them practice pragmatic rules skills in a safe and supportive environment. Pediatric SLPs can specifically assist children in developing these skills in an age appropriate manner, making activities fun and understandable.


Occupational therapists

Occupational therapists can also assess your child's play skills and come up with a treatment plan to help improve their abilities. They can also provide you with resources and strategies to use at home.

Occupational therapists can also work with your child on specific skills such as body awareness, motor planning, and sensory processing. They can help them practice these skills in a safe and supportive environment.


Psychologists

Psychologists can also assess your child's social and emotional skills. They can come up with a treatment plan to help improve their abilities. They can also provide you with resources and strategies to use at home.

Psychologists can also work with your child on specific skills such as social skills, emotion regulation, and coping skills. They can help them practice these skills in a safe and supportive environment.

If you are concerned about your child's pragmatic language skills, talk to their doctor or a speech therapist. They can help you determine if there is a problem and provide you with resources and strategies to help your child.


At Better Speech we know you deserve speech therapy that works.

We have experts in your needs and assign the right therapist, not just the therapist that happens to be in your area. Pragmatic speech therapy can be beneficial in many ways!


At Better Speech, we offer online speech therapy services convenient for you and tailored to your child's individual needs. Our services are affordable and effective - get Better Speech now.


 

About the Author

Mikee Larrazabal


I am a Speech-Language Pathologist with 14 years of experience working with children and adults who have communication difficulties. I completed my Bachelor of Science degree in Health Science at Cebu Doctors' University and have been helping people overcome their communication challenges ever since.


I have worked with individuals of different ages, including toddlers, preschoolers, school-aged children, adults and seniors. I'm passionate about speech therapy and take great satisfaction in helping people overcome their communication challenges and improve their lives through better communication skills. In my spare time I like reading books, going hiking in nature and taking care of my dog Locas.

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