Recently, a Beijing-based children’s magazine, City Weekend Parents & Kids, featured me in their story about teaching public speaking skills to children. It was a fantastic opportunity for me and led me to make a list of ten easy things you can do with the kids in your life to help them develop their speaking abilities.
Feel free to incorporate public speaking lessons into your daily routine. But remember this: Don’t let the kids know you are doing it!
1. Repeat after me: So what? Who cares? First and foremost, I teach our children not to take it all so seriously. If a child says, ‘What if I mess up in front of all these people?’ I say to children and adults alike, ‘So what? Why does it matter so much if we mess up? So you get embarrassed! Who cares?’ This mentality works wonders for children. They learn not to be afraid of making a mistake. There is a hug and a high-five waiting at the end, no matter what.
2. Encourage kids to introduce themselves: Our children introduce themselves to new people. They say their name and are open to shaking hands, even with adults. Recently, our boys traveled to their great-grandmother’s 90th birthday party. This was a very formal, traditional affair in which all guests received a handshake and short conversation. This ‘ritual’ is all part of the party fun, we explain.
3. Encourage kids to make an argument: Sometimes in our house, public speaking lessons come in the form of a ‘debate team match.’ When our kids have disputes, they are each expected to represent their side of the story. Of course, they are invested in telling all the points which prove that he/she is right. Some days they win the argument and some days they don’t.
4. Teach us what you learned: Being a teacher is the most genuine form of public speaking. When one of the children, even the littlest sister, has learned something new, we encourage them to ‘teach us what you learned.’ While the child is giving instructions, she is practicing public speaking. Also, by putting the emphasis on educating others, the speaker tends to speak more freely.
5. Tell me a story: The best speakers are storytellers. When our kids create something in LEGO or draw a picture, there is always a story involved. I help the child to create a mental image with words as the pictures. They become involved in the voices of their characters, or the body language of the old man or the tiger. These are vital skills for capturing an audience’s attention and great practice for future speeches.
6. Use ‘Show and Tell’: The easiest public speaking training can simply be to ask the child to show you their favorite toy or drawing. I usually don’t ask a lot of questions, as this can be stressful for a child. Rather, I make leading statements, such as ‘oh look, the princess is in the boat with a dog….’ And the child might say, ‘No, Mommy, that is a rabbit with a little girl who is going to see her grandma!’ And in this way, the child is able to correct and clarify what it was she had in mind without feeling interrogated.
7. Encourage performance lessons: Ballet and football, piano recitals and figure skating, to name just a few, are all extremely useful as indirect public speaking training. These courses help children to understand they can have fun in the spotlight. We receive applause and praise when we put ourselves in front of a crowd. Our kids have done versions of these for several years now and reap great rewards.
8. Tell me a joke: Our kids love ‘knock-knock’ jokes. They take turns around the dinner table making each other laugh with a good joke. A good speaker understands the power of humor in developing a connection with the audience and emphasizing a point and a good joke is usually a natural part of this.
9. Tell me what you are interested in: My older son often finds a particularly funny or interesting part of the book he is reading. In his enthusiasm, he reads the text with great gusto and loves to see a reaction in the rest of the family. This sense of ‘sharing enthusiasm’ is another key to great speech-making.
10. Encourage silliness: We sing and dance with our children at every opportunity, including silly dancing around the house. In fact, the sillier, the better! Role play at home can also be great fun. Who wants to pretend? Should we make a skit on a Sunday afternoon? Make up a silly song? This helps to overcome our inhibitions.
I hope this list gave you some inspiration for the kids around you. Did it give you ideas for yourself, as well? Who, me? But of course! These are all ideas to help you, too! Oh thee, thou wise adult. You need to drop some of your inhibitions too. When was the last time you danced the chicken dance just to make someone laugh? If you stop by our house on a Sunday afternoon, you will likely see me doing a mean air guitar….
All photos sourced from http://www.canva.com