Social development is of paramount importance for the healthy growth of a child. Children begin their journey towards fluent communication from a very young age: some even argue that the process begins before they’re even born!

It is essentially agreed though, that babbling babies and their mimicry of their parent’s spoken language help to solidify the neural pathways that allow for more complex communication as they age. These same pathways are still malleable and developing well into adolescence! Frequent practice using the four foundations of language: reading, writing, talking, and listening, is essential to fostering this development.

However, with school closures and strict quarantines for many, it may seem difficult for a parent to promote these activities. After all, how else can children practice communicating with their peers, as well as their educators, without school?

Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help them:

First of all: it’s important to recognise that children need to be able to talk to others of their own, or similar ages. If you haven’t already, you should encourage your child to speak online or by phone with friends from school, or even relatives of comparative age. Encourage them to discuss topics related to their day, future plans, as well as their own interests. These activities can further help ground them as well and reduce stress. As reading and writing is also important: you can encourage them to send emails to each other as well. Not short, simple emails, but longer texts of at least a few paragraphs. Individually, diaries and creative writing are excellent ways to promote reading and writing skills.

Lastly, children need older individuals to communicate with in order to “scaffold” their language usage and skills. Parents and older relatives can be great for this, as they are readily accessible. Try to participate in your children’s interests, or encourage them to pursue new ones. These can form avenues for more in-depth discussion where they can be introduced to new grammar, vocabulary, and concepts. Why not help proofread and edit your child’s work, help them write a report on a new subject, encourage them to read harder fiction? It’s very important that children have a role model to base their language use on!