Turn Taking Skills – Part 2 – Play

This week we will look at turn taking in play a skill children need to learn to take part in meaningful interaction with others. These interactions are a vital part of children’s physical, emotional, social and intellectual growth and wellbeing.

Children need to learn the importance of waiting for their turn when playing with others, something many find hard to understand to begin with.  

Like most skills it needs to be taught and practised and is part of our phonological awareness development as it requires us to learn an associated vocabulary along with facial and other physical cue.

A child who is taught and given lots of practise at taking turns will find interacting and playing with others easier later on.

Turn taking is easy to implement into everyday activities and play and something you probably do anyway, without even thinking about it

Here are some ideas to help you to support your child:

  • Try to use the phrase “My turn”, “Your turn” or “Daddy’s turn” (name a third person) when playing or doing an activity such as sharing a book.
  • Toddlers have a short attention span so keep the turn short to start with.
  • Physical games such as rolling and kicking a ball or running and jumping activities can help to encourage turn taking and learning to wait for your turn. Again, don’t make the turns too long and to help keep your child engaged while you have your turn, talk with them about what you are doing during your turn and when they are having theirs.
  • Count Down or Up – To help young children develop an understanding that if they wait, they will get their turn, explain that you will count to 10 and then it is time to swap and someone else has a turn, count to 10 again and return the toy or wanted object to your child. It won’t take long for them to understand that they will get their turn without a fuss.
  • Turn Time – As your child gets older try using a timer/clock to help them increase the time scale between taking turns. Try not to make the gaps between turns too long to start with, as young children find the concept of time very difficult, 1 minute might as well be an hour in their eyes. Show clearly a start point and the finish point for the time scale so your child can watch or come back and check the passing of time. Don’t be tempted to ignore the timer if it is your child’s turn, make sure they are offered the toy or turn that is due to them, otherwise they will feel cheated and some of the trust is lost.
  • As children get older, playing card and board games helps to further develop their turn taking skills.

Turn Taking Skills – Part 1 – Conversation

This week we will look at turn taking in conversation a skill children need to learn to take part in meaningful interaction with others. These interactions are a vital part of children’s physical, emotional, social and intellectual growth and wellbeing.

Children need to learn that in conversation they need to take turns listening and speaking.

This is more complex process than we often give it credit for as often we, especially in our busy lives, can be guilty of only listening to reply rather than listening to understand.

Children need to learn when to talk and when to listen; for this to happen they need to do the following:

  • Actively Listen to the other person. This means:
    • Concentrate on the words being said, by blocking out other environmental noises and voices.
    • For most children and adults this also means looking at the person, watching their facial expression and body language.
    • Recognising that it is either your turn to respond by formulating a reply or not.
  • Formulate a Response. This means:
    • Extracting meaning – taking understanding from the words that have been spoken.
    • Mentally searching for words to compile a grammatically correct set of sentences.

In young children this can take time, not because they do not have the answer, because they just take longer to recall and formulate their responses. This is due to the constant acquisition of new language and understanding of the grammatical conventions that need to be applied.

  • Communicate Response. This means
    • Speaking clearly, pronouncing words correctly in coherent sentences.
    • Using socially appropriate facial expressions and body language to accompany the response.
    • Using the appropriate verbal cues and/or changes in the tone of voice that allow the other person to understand it is now their turn.
  • Wait. This means giving time for the other person to formulate their response.
  • Actively Listen to the other person.

Learning these skills takes time and needs to be taught as well as modelled by those around the children. It begins very early on for instance, when we talk to a baby, as if expecting an answer. As a baby starts to make cooing and babbling sounds, they begin to respond to you in those gaps, their first conversations.

Something that is worth remembering:

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” (Dalai Lama)

Reading with Your Child Can Be Fun!

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The importance of reading to, and with, your child can’t be over emphasized. The more your child is exposed to words and enjoys the reading experience the quicker they will learn to read for themselves.

Reading with your child enables you to introduce them to new words and language structures which they will not come across in their everyday interactions. You can explain these words, through reading with your child, and help them to develop an understanding of their meaning. If a child likes the sound and rhythm of these new words or language structures they will, over time, start to use them in conversations with others and during imaginative play.

Reading to, and with, your child is such an important activity, however knowing how to keep it fun and to get the most out of the experiences is not always clear. This is why we are re-running our popular six-week series on ‘Developing and Supporting Your Child’s Reading Journey’

Each week we will look at a different reading skill element, giving example games and activities you can use to support and develop your child through:

  • Play
  • Drawing/Writing
  • Book Sharing
  • Talk & Song

‘Developing and Supporting Your Child’s Reading Journey’ Series:

  • Week 1. How to develop a child’s interest in books and reading.
  • Week 2. Phonological awareness skills required for reading.
  • Week 3. Vocabulary development for comprehension.
  • Week 4. Print awareness to develop understanding of reading conventions.
  • Week 5. Narrative skills to support the understanding of different writing styles.
  • Week 6. Letter knowledge.