1. Practice making eye contact.
Encourage your child to look at your eyes when you talk. Make sure your eyes are on her when she speaks to you, too. Ask her what your expressions mean. If she doesn’t know, explain the message you were sending.
2. Encourage attention.
Give your child your full attention when you’re talking to her. By doing so, you’re setting a great example. If you notice your child spacing off when you’re speaking to her, gently guide her back.
3. Observe your child’s expressions.
Help your child realize how expressive her own face can be. This can help her notice other people’s facial expressions.
4. Notice others’ body language.
Help your child begin to see what the people around her are “saying” with their bodies. Playing charades can be a fun way to get kids thinking about communicating through their bodies. Talk through how characters on TV are feeling based on their body language.
5. Discuss what’s expected in different situations.
How your child talks on the playground to friends shouldn’t be the same as how she’d address the principal. Talk with your child about the different people she interacts with regularly. Who might get a high five? Who gets a more formal hello?
6. Point out pitch and tone.
Some kids have trouble noticing changes in voice, sometimes called inflections. When that happens, your child might miss a bigger message because she’s taking speech too literally. Talk through how the same statement (for example, “Can you please get the mail”) can be a simple request or an angry demand, depending on how you say it.
7. Practice inflections.
If your child can read aloud well, have her read to you regularly. Choose stories that have lots of dialogue. That way she can practice changing her voice depending on how the character is feeling or what he’s trying to say. If your child doesn’t read well, you can read stories to her that have lots of dialogue or take out an audiobook from the library.
8. Role-play common scenarios.
Kids who have trouble with social cues can benefit from practicing everyday interactions. Try role-playing different situations with your child. Respond to things she says or does using body language and expressions. Ask your child what messages you’re sending out and how she might react to them.