Are you thinking “she is off track”? “What the heck does the action have to do with communication??”
Well, hear me out…
If you pay attention to what your child is doing you will quickly see that they can communicate with you through their actions or behaviour.
When a toddler is throwing an epic tantrum what are they saying? “Help me”, “I’m done”, “I don’t like not getting my way”, “It is frustrating not being able to do what you can do”, and the best one “Why don’t you understand what I am trying to tell you?”
When you lay an infant down on the floor and he begins to cry what is he telling you? At first, you may think “He doe not like tummy time” or “he only wants to be held”. When in fact he may be hungry, tired, or not sure what is going on. If you get down on the floor close to him and give him eye contact or talk in a soothing manner the crying could stop before you even pick him up. Does this mean you have to stay on the floor with him all the time? Nope, it is just something to try to help him like it. You can sing or talk to him from a distance as well.
An older child may have a number of words but they often cannot use them to effectively express how they are really feeling. Their behaviour can be a very clear sign of how they are feeling or what is going on in their world. A great example of this is when our little (not so little guy – 7) is bouncing off of the walls or not able to follow simple requests. It can mean that he is super excited about something, he is worried about something, he has the energy to burn, or he is just having fun.
So I do believe that I have made my point very clear that children communicate with their actions or behaviour. You may be thinking that is great but what can I do?
Ways to Help Your Child Improve their Communication through actions?
1. Pair their action with words:
Give them the words. For example: when your infant is crying and you know they are hungry crying say ” I think you are hungry”. It sounds ridiculous but honestly, it is very helpful. This is especially helpful with toddler and preschool-aged children.
2. Respond to the Action
Give them the chance to communicate their needs. Children as young as 8 months can gesture but usually, it is closer to 10 months before a child can gesture for what they need. If you acknowledge that you know what they are asking for they will continue to use gestures.
3. Teach Sign
When children are responding with gestures you can teach simple baby language signs. The key is to pair the sign with words so they learn to communicate with words as well.
4. Use Visuals
You can have a series of pictures available for your child to use to express their needs. A child around 16 months can start to use this technique. Ask your child to “show me” what they want and they can start that at just over 12 months but it gets better closer to 16 months.
What do some actions mean:
This is when a child shows an action towards a breast. This can mean that the child is hungry (the most common reason); however, it can also indicate that a child is tired.
When your child is crying you will be able to figure out what the various ones mean. Obviously, the high pitch very loud wail means “I want you now”. you will also know what tone of cry your child uses to let you know that are tired or hungry, trust your instincts on this.
This can often mean that child is frustrated or angry; however, it can also mean that a child is really excited. So depending on the reason, you can act accordingly.
The main reason for this is pain or discomfort while teething. In infants this can be a sign of hunger. With Toddlers and Preschool-aged children it can be a way for a child to indicate that they are frustrated, angry or excited. Here is a link to a previous blog post that can help with biting,
This can mean that a child is trying to seek comfort from anxious moments. This is another behaviour that can indicate that a child is frustrated.