Build Confidence in Preschoolers and Toddlers With Public Speaking
It’s never too early to encourage kids to stand up in front of people and perform. Performance doesn’t have to be learning lots of lines for a play or spectacle; it can be as simple as singing a song, telling about a picture they drew, reciting a favorite poem or even doing a Sunday school talk. The more we encourage young kids to speak, the greater the likelihood that their self-confidence will increase with each experience. Everyone has a story to tell and wants someone to listen.
Building Confidence with Public Speaking
- Teach the children poems suitable for little kids. Read the poems to them and help them to learn the poems through repetition and even enactment where possible. Then, have the children recite the poems while you’re giving them your total attention.
- Encourage the children to not be afraid and prove it to them by speaking publicly yourself. Even if you are uncomfortable with public speaking, which most people are, your little one needs to know from you that they are not the only one who is nervous when speaking. A child learns by example and does not have the ability to understand the philosophical realm of language and inner struggle. If you only tell them not to be afraid of something, they will agree with you to not do it, but they will not fully get what “it” is.
- Have the kids draw a picture. Suggest that they each take turns standing up and telling everyone else in the group or class about what they drew. Teach them that teamwork and a positive attitude benefits them as well as those around them. This will build self-confidence and self-respect which will make them feel good about speaking in front of people.
- Teach children to be polite and listen. Have them applaud the speaking child for his or her efforts. This is an important part of growing to appreciate public speaking, especially as not every child will find it a comfortable experience unless they’re supported thoroughly. Teach all of the children that it is very important to be kind and to never to laugh or make fun of a speaker.
- Encourage the children to ask questions politely. It is both good for the speaker to learn to field questions from an audience and for the children to learn the skill of asking questions in relation to something they’ve just learned about.
Build a stage for the little performers, if you can. The kids can help with designing, locating and making it. They could help hang the curtain or with making props to make it look like a stage.
- In many cases, it’s probably best to make a portable stage that can be put up and taken down with great ease, so that it’s not in the way. Use bamboo poles stuck in buckets (stuff paper or other materials into the bucket to hold in place) to create a prop for hanging stage curtains from and a pole across the top of each pole for hanging curtains from.
- Develop fun ways to teach young children the right things to do when speaking in public. Also demonstrate the wrong things to do. This can be done on a fun basis: Have someone perform all the wrong things like speaking too loudly or too quietly, or too fast, or moving all around the place while talking or facing the wrong way to the audience. You can demonstrate that chewing gum and pulling on their clothes and hair is not the way to talk clearly either. Have some fun with this––the children will laugh a lot but the lessons will still be taken up by their inquiring minds.
Teach the children about “the big finish.” That unlike dancing or playing music, public speaking is not about making a lot of movement, or tapping fingers or feet, or fidgeting. Show energy but don’t be too excited or boring, but just right, to share their ideas. However you wish to accomplish this just remember to focus on what “to do” , instead of what “not to do” and everyone including yourself will have more fun.
- Some public speakers do walk around as they talk; in fact, some of the most engaging ones do this. Children can be encouraged to be expressive with their hands and walking provided that they don’t cover their faces or place any part of their sides or back to the audience. As before, and exaggerated performance these mistakes will lighten the mood and help them to laugh at themselves and not judge others.
- Truly listen to what the children have to say. It is important that we teach them that what they have to say is important. If we show them that we value it and want to hear what they have to say they will feel more comfortable and respectful with strangers. Part of successful speaking is also learning to be considerate to others by listening.
- Some children are naturally shy and some children (up to one third of any class or group) are introverted and may find public speaking difficult. This doesn’t mean leaving them out of learning the skill but it is important to recognize that these children need to be allowed a more gradual approach. Never tell such children that they’re too quiet, too sensitive or too shy; this is demeaning and not constructive. Be patient and help them to blossom in their own way by finding something they really love talking about and let them stick with that as a topic.
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