Oral Language and Social Skills

Everyone loves a good story, and it’s no secret that a good storyteller usually has plenty of friends. Not only that, but research suggests that children who tell stories with ease receive more parent and teacher approval, and grow up to have better problem solving skills for social dilemmas.

We’ve all known someone who seems to have come out of the womb with the gift of gab. That person who naturally holds court with their peers, entertaining them with interesting details and a well-timed delivery? But that’s not most people’s truth.

Storytelling is oral language at its best. (Also called narrative language, the part of oral language called discourse.) And telling stories is learned and practiced, just like the rest of oral language. A parent asks a preschooler with muddy hands what happened. A father comes home from work and asks the kids about their day. A second grader tells his teacher what happened at recess. A middle school girl tells her best friend what happened at the school dance. A high school junior explains what happened during an interview.

When our kids can’t tell these stories, we notice. They can’t stay on topic. They ramble on to no point. Or maybe they just don’t say much at all. And when our kids get old enough, they notice it too…and so do their peers. While it’s easier to work on narrative language skills when students are school-aged, we can still help our grown-up babies build social competencies.

The best thing you can do to help your kids build social narrative skills is to share your own stories with them! (You don’t have to be a master storyteller to do this, we promise.) When your kids are little, you can make this a game. Let’s say you tell a story about a time you forgot your lunch. Stop your story in the middle, and ask, “What do you think happened next?” When you’re finished with your story, it’s your child’s turn. Try to encourage a similar story by asking, “Can you tell me a story about a time you forgot something?”

But what do you do when your kids are older and talk reluctant? We’d recommend checking out our On-the-Go Games for social stories (a crowd favorite is a game we call Three Truths!). Another great game for building conversation skills is our On the Same Page card deck. We love this one for dinner with mixed-aged kids to get everyone talking.