Turn taking skills
Turn taking in conversation and play is a skill children need to learn to take part in meaningful interaction with others. These interactions are a vital part of children's physical, emotional, social and intellectual growth and wellbeing.
Turn taking in conversation
Children need to learn when to talk and when to listen; for this to happen they need to do the following:
Phonological Awareness Stage 1 (birth to 1 years)
- Pause when talking to your baby, as if expecting an answer. As your baby starts to make cooing and babbling sounds they will respond to you in these gaps; their first conversations with you.
Phonological Awareness Stages 2 to 7 (3 years to 6 years+)
- Actively Listen to the other person. This means:
- Concentrate on the words being said, by blocking out other environmental noises and voices.
- For most children and adults this also means looking at the person, watching their facial expression and body language.
- Listening for the verbal cues and/or changes in the tone of voice that signifies that the person has finished speaking.
- Recognising that it is either your turn to respond by formulating a reply or not.
- Formulate a Response. This means:
- Extracting meaning - taking understanding from the words that have been spoken.
- Mentally searching for words to compile a grammatically correct set of sentences.
- Communicate Response. This means
- Speaking clearly, pronouncing words correctly in coherent sentences.
- Using socially appropriate facial expressions and body language to accompany the response.
- Using the appropriate verbal cues and/or changes in the tone of voice that allow the other person to understand it is now their turn.
- Wait. This means giving time for the other person to formulate their response.
- Actively Listen to the other person.
Turn taking in play
Children need to learn the importance of waiting for their turn when playing with others.
Phonological Awareness Stages 2 & 3 (2 years to 4 years)
● A child who is taught and given lots of practise at taking turns will find interacting and playing with others easier later on.
● Turn taking is easy to implement into everyday activities and play and something you probably do anyway, without even thinking about it.
● Try to use the phrase “My turn”, “Your turn” or “Daddy's turn” (name a third person) when playing or doing an activity such as sharing a book.
● Toddlers have a short attention span so keep the turn short to start with.
● Physical games such as rolling and kicking a ball or running and jumping activities can help to encourage turn taking and learning to wait for your turn. Again, don't make the turns too long and to help keep your child engaged while you have your turn, talk with them about what you are doing during your turn and when they are having theirs.
● Count Down or Up - To help young children develop an understanding that if they wait they will get their turn, explain that you will count to 10 and then it is time to swap and someone else has a turn, count to 10 again and return the toy or wanted object to your child. It won’t take long for them to understand that they will get their turn without a fuss.
Phonological Awareness Stages 4 to 6 (3 years to 6 years+)
● Turn Time - As your child gets older try using a timer/clock to help them increase the time scale between taking turns. Try not to make the gaps between turns too long to start with, as young children find the concept of time very difficult, 1 minute might as well be an hour in their eyes. Show clearly a start point and the finish point for the time scale so your child can watch or come back and check the passing of time. Don't be tempted to ignore the timer if it is your child's turn, make sure they are offered the toy or turn that is due to them, otherwise they will feel cheated and some of the trust is lost.
● As children get older, playing card and board games helps to further develop their turn taking skills.