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This content is taken from the University of Strathclyde & CELCIS's online course, Caring for Vulnerable Children. Join the course to learn more.
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Communication and children

In week 2 you were introduced to a number of different theorists who all offered different perspectives on how we can measure and assess the way in which children and young people grow and develop.

This involved consideration of the work of Freud, Piaget and Erikson. We concluded that all potentially have something to offer, along with the ecological approach of Bronfenbrenner.

The way in which adults and carers communicate and interact with children and young people will be one way in which they influence their growth and development. Well-judged communication and interactions will aid growth and encourage healthy development.

Effective communication with children and young people should always be delivered at a level and pace which is consistent with their development and understanding. The most particular example of this will be pre-verbal babies and infants where touch, facial expressions and gestures will all be vital communication tools. As children and young people grow and develop the manner in which we communicate will become increasingly more sophisticated. There are a number of factors which we need to consider when thinking about effective communication with children and young people.

Juliet Koprowska compiled a list of Do’s and Don’t’s designed to help communication with children and young people. They are based on material which thinks about the needs of children with communication problems and those where evidence is being gathered about alleged abuse. The list includes:


  • Encourage the child to tell you if you get in a muddle or get things wrong;
  • Model this for them by saying when you don’t understand;
  • Encourage the child to tell you if they don’t know the answer to something you ask;
  • Slow down;
  • Use short sentences;
  • Allow time for your utterance to be processed;
  • Use simple language;
  • Give choices;
  • If a child has attention problems, make sure you have their attention before you speak;
  • Ask one question at a time.


  • Talk at length – take short turns or the child may lose the thread;
  • Ask yes/no questions – younger children tend to answer the same way each time;
  • Ask leading questions;
  • Ask tag questions – a form of leading question which is also over-complex;
  • Use complex sentence structures which obscure the meaning;
  • Correct the child’s use of language, but respond using the right form.

The sources at the bottom of this step were used when creating this week’s materials - you can consult them for more information on the topic.

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This article is from the free online course:

Caring for Vulnerable Children

University of Strathclyde