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Non-verbal¸communication and use of Declarative Language

I want to ask you all, Do we need to be verbal to communicate? I don’t think so, then why stress so much for it. Of course, it’s the most common way of communicating, most of the junta communicates in this mode, but our kids are different so their way of expressing CAN be different. 

Now, let’s cut the chase. 

I remember seeing “PUSHPAK” movie growing up. I think, most of us might have seen the movie; we have seen, enjoyed “Tom & Jerry”, “Charlie Chaplin”. All of these didn’t have dialogues. Most of the communication was non-verbal. Non-verbal is the foundation of communication, that’s the first stage, a child communicates to his/her parents. The child senses the parent’s expressions and gets an idea of his surroundings. 

Next, for any communication to be successful, it has to be in partnership. Most of the time, we talk to our kids in Q&A mode i.e the Imperative language. “What is this”, “Tell me that”, “Say : Bye”. We don’t leave any room for the child to think. But, an authentic or real conversation is mostly experience sharing and using lot of declarative language, else it’s sermon-like or answering a paper filled with Qs. 

Now, let’s get to practice :

Non-verbal communication includes 

  • usage of lot of facial expressions, eye gaze,
  • intonations,
  • prosody
  • lot of pause (can’t emphasise enough the value of it)

Declarative Language, simply put, is saying out loud, what you are thinking or experience-sharing. “Yumm, I love these soft Idlis”, with lot of eye-wideing and facial expressions showing it. “oh no, I wanted to drink Chai, but we are out of sugar”. Problem solve it by saying everything out loud. Let your child see and notice how we do problem solving in the real-world. 

We practice it with –

  • Use lot of non-verbal ways of communications,
  • communicate to enhance “thinking”
  • use experience-sharing
  • Model, not instruct

Eg :

“Look, Daadi is here. Hello Daadi.”, now look at your child as if to expect him to say. Transfer the responsibility to the child. Pause, If child responds, job well done, or if the child even looks at you or Daadi, communication has happened, acknowledge it. 

By not giving the exact words for child to say, you are giving a possibility for your child to think. 

“Look Beta, Daadi is leaving” , now look at your child, transfer the responsibility. If the child says “Bye” nothing like it, else we simplify it more, give them clues to facilitate thinking. you can say, “I wonder what we say when someone is leaving”, pause, look at your child, no response, it’s alright, we model “aah, when someone leaves we can say “Bye-bye”, “Bye Daadi, see you soon”. and you can invite the child to say Bye simply by looking at him, his response can be verbal or non-verbal (looking at you or Daadi). That’s the foundation you have built. We might have to repeat the same exercise with different set of people few times, but trust me, once the child gets it, we don’t have to instruct anymore. Later on, he will get the other cues too quickly. 

So, let’s focus on Declaratives and non verbal communication to get to verbal. Let’s STOP hounding and be partners !!! Let’s redirect ourselves towards building Dynamic thinkers who can problem solve themselves

Artwork by Lavanya Iyer

Creative representation for this blog has been done by our talented CreativeSaathi junior Lavanya Iyer. Non verbal conversation/ communication is depicted through the bond and connection between Radha and lord Krishna.

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Imitate —> Repeat —> Memorise

Acquiring knowledge is a form of imitation. ― J. Krishnamurti

We all learn about our surroundings or our world by observing others acts and reactions. Imitation is about learning behaviours and social cues, like how to react to a greeting by a fellow child. 

How can we guide our kids to Imitate :

  • Playtime : stacking blocks / play-dough / role play with dolls / clapping games
  • Daily Life and Activities : everyday chores / cooking / cleaning / exercising
  • Dance : Start with copying small or basic moves which help in their gross and fine motor movements. Gradually, we can move to facial expressions and combining movement with expressions. Adding singing to it is another advantage. All these activities are incremental.
  • Art and Craft

Imitation enhances attention which brings connection. And all this gets better and better through repetition. Through Repetition, we rehearse over time and gradually it becomes easier, and the child gets confident. 

Most learnings rely on repetitions, even behaviours of our kids are hard to break as through repetition and repetition they become natural to them and immediately come to their rescue. But with Repetition, we can create memories and handle behaviours too.

With Repetition, we transfer our learnings to our subconscious, and free our working-memory for more learnings. We can say now that we have successfully memorised that learning. It’s easy to retrieve then. 

Hope, Imitate —> Repeat —> Memorise makes sense now. 

I would you all to read a small story based on Saint Kabir Doha(couplet) to transfer it to your subconscious too.

I would like to enormously thank Morpheus Nag (15yo from Chandigarh) for the above illustration for the writeup. I couldn’t have thought anything better.


M for mooove…

Looks like, I cannot talk enough about Movement. In my earlier article, I talked about how play impacts our kids and us and what few ways we can incorporate it in our Daily Rhythm.

Count every opportunity to move as valid and choose to take it. Movement in small blocks throughout the day is the key here.

Today, I want to dig slightly deeper on the how we can add Movement in our Daily Life. Apart from some formal exercises suggested to us or outdoor play, we can do :

  • Dance ; some days just let loose, we don’t have to teach very waking second. Our favourite or my favourite kinda movement.
  • Playing Hide and seek : its a great game for teaching problem solving skills. When I delved on this, I started with hiding things in front of my daughter and putting them all out around us, and tried to keep an object which she recognises well so as to use it for hint. I had to teach her how to play the game step-by-step. It didn’t come naturally to her. and slowly I started hiding them under the objects which she recognises like plate/pillow/big-book etc, to finally closing her eyes and hiding them. It’s a great game for building Family Connections.
  • Pocha-play or Mop-play : Some days, we put mops under our feet and pretend play that we are gliding, trust me on this – it wasn’t easy for me. I seriously lost balance lots of time, and it brought so many giggles. Use theatrics to make it fun.
  • Cleaning door / windows / shelves / furniture around the house : trying to shoot 2 birds with one arrow here. Hey ! Getting things done, as well as bringing movement and teaching life skill, can a parent ask for more? Ha ha!
  • Grocery shopping for specific dish : I give 2/3 options to my daughter as to what one dish (palak paneer or sambar or simple soup) we can eat for dinner, and we watch a video together followed by, making the list of ingredients and check what’s available at home and whatever is not, we walk to nearby shop and buy it. I write down steps , we do all the prep-work – starting from cleaning to washing and then finally cooking it together. Its been only 2 times we are able to do it, but it was great. I could see the sense of joy and fulfilment in both of us.

Above were my list of things we do together, let me know how you incorporate movement in your Daily living. I need some inspiration to give choices to us, before I hit a roadblock.

I recently came to know of a term called “Movement Kindergarten”, what a beautiful phrase. Baby steps is the first part . & How we navigate them in our daily lives is truly where the rubber hits the road.

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“All the world’s a stage…”

and we all are merely role-playing, we all have our parts sometimes defined sometimes not. We all have stories to tell.

With stories, we can understand perspectives, we can understand the environment, how characters understand and react with the environment. In a nutshell, Storytelling is “Experience taking”.

With our kids, we can achieve so much with it. We can do

  • Art and Craft like puppets
  • Drama
  • movement
  • Retelling same story in your words
  • Role playing of characters; dressing up as favourite characters
  • teach Sequencing
  • teach academics

We made puppets of the story “The little Red Hen”. We coloured the characters, cut them and pasted on wooden spoon to make puppets, which we are going to use in Role-playing of the characters.

Each one of us have taken a puppet and role-played those characters. Each character made its sound and actions like meow/quack-quack. The story I chose has very few words keeping in mind not to overwhelm anyone.

Adding movement to stories is a great way to move and learn. Today, we were reading a story and a character tiptoed around the room as the other one was sleeping. We immediately got up and enacted the part. We started tiptoeing around the house, sometimes talking loudly and sometimes quietly as if someone is sleeping or my husband working so tiptoeing in his room so that he doesn’t get disturbed. It was so much fun.

Drama is one of the oldest ways of Storytelling. What’s will be life without some stories and certainly, not a better way to connect with each other. Each new day brings new ways to play our roles, have our exchanges. So, lets choose a story and let the drama begin.


“Storytelling offers the opportunity to talk with your audience, not at them.”

― Laura Holloway, Founder and Chief of The Storyteller Agency

and what better way to connect with our kids than storytelling. Since the beginning my daughter loved listening to the same stories repeatedly. And we read story books to her, few books brought comfort to her. Whenever she was upset, we would bring out the books and start reading it to her.

Gradually, I learnt to use storytelling better. Few things she learnt herself through them like emotions. During COVID, I came to know of Waldorf way of schooling, and BOOM, we started exploring storytelling way more than usual. Few of the things we did : 

  • body movements, 
  • voice intonations and prosody,
  • pause and pace,
  • drawing and colouring stories,
  • copying story texts on notebooks,
  • simple maths,
  • brought variations to the same story few times.

Movement was always a big challenge for us. So, we started storytelling during our walks. and it became a hit, come evening time, and my daughter would choose (picture cards or story name cards) what story she wants to listen to during our walk. Sometimes, I would bring variations like, instead of “The 3 little Pigs”, I would tell the story of “The 3 little fishes”. So, this way, we can tell about the ocean ecosystem in a miniature way.

Recently, I noticed, she was painting and one paint bottle was stuck in the box. She said, “O O, it’s stuck”. I was so amazed to hear that. She not only used the appropriate words but also the expressions.

I am a big fan of Storytelling and with right tools our kids can develop the ability to mentally travel in time. The ability to understand speech comes before reading and writing, so we are exposing children to language and cognition through it. and I feel, Telling stories is quite different from reading stories. With storytelling, we bring our own personality and individuality to it and I cannot emphasise enough on the connection it builds between the parent and the child and its a great way to build family connections, which we all struggle with.  Till date, the easiest way to grab my daughter’s attention is by saying “Once upon a time ….”.