By Melissa Martin, author of Tessie Tames Her Tongue: A Book About Learning When to Talk and When to Listen
How do you help a chatty kid with talking and listening skills?
Children possess a natural curiosity about the human body, and teaching facts about the basic functions of our amazing tongues, astounding sound systems, and astonishing ears will spark the learning process. Here are a few facts to share about each of these topics and activities to help kids get a grasp on their communication skills.
Have kids look in the mirror and stick out their tongues. Tell them to move their tongues in and out and up and down. While they’re doing that, share the following facts.
- The average tongue is about 3 inches long.
- The tongue is made of 8 different muscles and is used for talking, eating, and swallowing.
- The bumps on the top of the tongue are called papillae and contain taste buds. Your tongue has about 10,000 taste buds.
- It’s not possible to swallow your tongue because it is connected to the bottom of your mouth.
- The tongue helps us form words and talk.
Teaching children that they can manage the speed of their tongues is empowering. Ask them to talk as fast then as they can and then as slow as they can. Use the following chart to help them visualize different speeds in a fun way.
- Blast-Off Tongue: You’re talking so fast your tongue is smoking. Your words explode out of your mouth.
- Ready-for-Takeoff Tongue: Your tongue jumps out of your mouth, and your lips tremble. Word speed is getting faster and faster.
- Tense Tongue: Words bounce and pounce around in your mouth.
- Tingling Tongue: Tonsils, teeth, and tongue waggle and wiggle. Word speed increases.
- Relaxed Tongue: You’re talking at a regular speed.
- Slow-Motion Tongue: Words ooze slowly off your tongue.
- Turtle-Speed Tongue: Your long, sleepy words are barely recognizable.
For more interesting information about the tongue that you can share with kids, check out this article at KidsHealth.
Astounding Sound System
Make lots of different sounds with your child. Say the vowel sounds. Invite your child to whisper, then to shout. Here are a few facts to share.
- The voice box is called the larynx.
- Inside the larynx are the vocal cords.
- The vocal cords make sounds with the help of the lungs, throat, and mouth.
Let kids experiment with the volume of their voices and practice using their indoor voices when appropriate. Use the Voice Volume Indicator to talk with your child about voice volume. (You can make it more fun by designing a simple visual aid—a thermometer or increasing alarm level image works well.) Showing children they can choose to manage their own sound systems is a tool for tongue and ear management.
Voice Volume Indicator
- Alarm! (Your #5 Voice) Earsplitting sounds. Smoking voice box. You’re hurting the ears of others.
- Warning! (Your #4 Voice) You’re talking louder and LOUDER. If you’re inside, it’s time to breathe and lower your voice.
- Alert (Your #3 Voice) Your voice is a little too loud for indoors but just right for outside.
- All Systems Normal (Your #2 Voice) This is a firm indoor voice.
- Low Volume (Your #1 Voice) You’re cool, you are keeping it down.
- Shhh (Your #0 Voice) You’re whispering.
The ears have a job to do. Invite your child to look at her or his ears in the mirror. Feel them. Think about why humans have ears.
- Ears listen to sounds and send them to the brain.
- The ear is made up of three different sections: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear.
- These parts all work together so you can hear and process sounds.
Most kids have a natural curiosity about parts of the human body. You can use that curiosity as a teaching tool with kids who love to talk. Share with them the 10 Listening Steps for School.
10 Listening Steps for School
- You are sitting up straight in your seat.
- Both feet are on the floor.
- Your eyes are on the person who is talking.
- Your mouth is closed.
- Your tongue is relaxed.
- Your arms are on your desk.
- Both ears are listening to the speaker’s words.
- Your brain is thinking about what the speaker is saying.
- Your mind is focused on learning and understanding.
- You raise your hand to talk when it’s discussion time.
Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is a clinical child therapist with experience as a play therapist, adjunct professor, workshop leader and trainer, and behavioral health consultant. Her specializations include mental health trauma treatment, EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), and expressive therapies. A self-syndicated newspaper columnist, she writes on children’s mental health issues and parenting. Melissa lives in Ohio.
Melissa Martin is the author of Tessie Tames Her Tongue.
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