Easy Tips to Teach Kids Conversation Skills

Teach your children to make polite conversation with these three easy steps.

As a mom of two, I can tell you that throughout my days of driving carpool for what seems like thousands of hours, volunteering at numerous schools, interacting with my friends' kids, and with the children who run around the neighborhood, I am always most impressed with the children and teens who can do just one simple and easy thing … carry on a conversation.

Making polite conversation means that when someone asks you a question you answer it, but then…. (drum roll) you ask the other person a question in return. Then, when you answer their question, you ask them another question. They answer it and ask you a new question, etc. etc. etc. See? It's easy, but so many (too many) kids don't know how to make polite conversation with adults, or even with other kids for that matter, and this will only hold them back.

Why is it Important to Make Polite Conversation?

Because when you do you are:

  • ​Showing that you sincerely care about the other person because you are asking questions about them and listening to their answers.
  • By sharing information about yourself you are starting to build a relationship.
  • Showing that you are confident and caring. This is essential to making friends, and impressing coaches, teachers and other adults.
  • Able to have an advantage later in life when interviewing for colleges and jobs, and when trying to climb the corporate ladder.

You can teach your children (and anyone else for that matter) how to be a good conversationalist by following these three easy steps outlined below.

I recommend first reading these steps aloud, but then practice by getting a ball and playing "conversation catch" (step 3) for as long as it takes to become really good at it. In fact, play this game occasionally with everyone in the family like in the kitchen outside, or even  around the dinner table. Practice until your kids are able to meet someone (like in the grocery store) and after you introduce them, they start to make polite conversation with this person all on their own. Trust me, it will happen, and you will have given your children a skill that will help them for a lifetime.

Step One Have Polite and Confident Body Language.

When talking with someone it's important to show through your body language that you want to be talking to them. Here are the important things to do:

  • Smile. Have a nice easy smile to show to that you're happy to be talking with the person.
  • Eye contact. Look the other person in the eyes when you are speaking and when he/she is speaking so that he/she knows you are really listening.
  • Good posture. Don't be hunched over your cell phone looking at or using it, or have your arms crossed looking like you're mad.

Step Two  Listen and Show You Are Listening.

In order to really be able to have a conversation with someone you need to listen to what he/she is saying so that you can ask follow-up questions. Also, if someone doesn't think you are listening because you are texting at the same time, or you are looking around the room, or watching TV, he/she will not want to continue talking to you because you really aren't listening. To really listen do this:

  • Show you're listening. Make sure you have eye contact when he/she is talking.
  • Nod. By nodding or showing facial expressions that match what the person is talking about, he/she will know you're really listening.
  • Ask clarifying questions. Asking simple questions like, "Where did you say you found it? What color was it? How long were you there?" shows that you really are listening because you want to be clear on what is being said.

STEP 3 Play Conversation Catch.

Standing a few feet apart, take any kind of ball and toss it back and forth like you're playing a game of catch. Then, start the Conversation Catch game by:

  • ​First person asks a question of the other person and throws him/her the ball. (Example, "What do you like to do in the summer?")
  • Second person catches the ball, answers the question, asks the other person a question, then throws the ball. (Example, "I love to swim at our neighborhood pool because a lof of my friends go there too. What do you like to do during the summer?")
  • Repeat this game back and forth for a couple of minutes until you can work up to having a conversation without stopping for five minutes. 

​Being a good conversationalist is an excellent skill for everyone in the family. Encourage family members to make polite conversation with:

  • Relatives
  • Neighbors
  • Friends
  • Coaches
  • Teachers
  • And, all new people you meet!