Right now we find ourselves at home, and many of our regular opportunities for social interaction and conversation have disappeared. It can be especially tough for kids to go from seeing their friends and classmates every day at school to having little contact with them during these challenging times.

Below is a list of ways to keep practicing our conversational skills while social distancing!

A phone call is a great opportunity to work on conversation skills with the visual component removed. This gives us a chance to work on taking conversational turns, including all the parts of a conversation (greeting, question, comment, farewell), identifying topics that might be of interest to our partner, and staying on-topic throughout a conversation. Because we can’t see faces, identifying emotion in our partner’s tone of voice becomes very important.

Video conferencing is a nice way to work on group conversation, which includes the skills of knowing when and how to take a conversational turn and choosing topics appropriate for a variety of partners. It gives us a great opportunity to practice reading facial expressions and body language when we’re physically isolated from each other.

Email allows us to really focus on the content of our conversations. We can go back and read comments and questions from our conversation partner and take time to formulate thoughtful, on-topic responses. It takes the time pressure out of a “live” conversation and allows us to revise our responses before we send them. Since so much of our daily communication is electronic these days, email etiquette is always great to practice.

Snail Mail, like email, takes the time pressure out of the equation and is just a bit more exciting than email  As a bonus, we get to work on our handwriting! Since writing is a bit more tedious than typing, formulating a letter helps us work on making our comments and questions more concise.

Mealtime conversation is such a fantastic way to work on our social skills. Although the above methods are great during these challenging times, nothing really substitutes for a conversation with those who are actually physically present! Even for a short time, sitting down to talk helps us work on “whole body listening” skills, taking turns talking, interpreting and using nonverbal communication skills (e.g., body language, facial expression), and most importantly, helps us remain connected to our families.

Since life can feel monotonous being at home all day, finding new topics of conversation can be challenging. Try taking turns asking “conversation starter” questions, even if it sounds a little cheesy. You might find out something new about your family members by asking silly questions like, “If you could be any animal, what would you be?” or “If you could bring back someone from history, who would you choose?” The possibilities are endless!

Playing games allow us to practice all of the skills mentioned above, sometimes in an exaggerated manner (I’m thinking about nonverbal cues and charades, here). Below is a list of games that really get us communicating!

*Be sure to check the recommended age range for each one before trying them at home

Apples to Apples

Story Cubes

Charades

One Night Ultimate Werewolf

Outfoxed!

Choices

Bubble Talk

By: Christina Martini, MS, CCC-SLP