Ever struggled working with kids who are extremely shy or who just don’t pay attention? Most probably you have, and if you haven’t yet, it’s almost a certainty you will. That’s why this article by Samuel Boey may prove helpful. Samuel is a speech pathologist/children’s entertainer who has a flair for connecting with children who are withdrawn or who are slow to warm up. Here’s what he wrote:
- Have you met a quiet child who doesn’t seem to respond to what you say?
- Have you met children in your show who are busy playing with each other rather than paying attention to what you are doing?
- Have you met children who seem to ignore everything you say or do?
Most of the time, we can keep the show going and ignore these children for the sake of the rest. However, there are situations where we can’t afford to do so, like the following instances:
- The child is the birthday child (or someone equivalent).
- It is a really small (and/or quiet) audience.
- The children are so disruptive that they are bothering the others.
Rather than just dismissing the show as a bad experience, why not try and reach out to these children? You’ll have a better experience and grow as a performer.
What can we do to reach out to them? We can OWL. I OWL whenever I’m interacting or performing with children (and even with adults). I may not be the most chatty person, but whenever I OWL, children (and adults) feel safe to have a conversation with me. Once you have a conversation, just keep it going and your show will be a blast.
So what is OWL?
- Observe – Watch and see what the child or children are interested in. It is easier to follow a child’s interest than to get one to follow your commands. Show your interest in what the child is interested in by making a comment about it (not a command for their attention).
- Wait – Wait for the child to respond. Give them some time (as long as 10 seconds) to realize that you are talking to them. Children need time to think of a response. Don’t worry about the tension in the silence. Kids actually feel more at ease when you are not rushing them for an answer.
- Listen – Listen intensely—with your ears as well as your body. Lean in and nod with interest. Do not interrupt. After the child has finished, confirm what they said or make a small comment. This allows the child to feel that their response is valued and you are not ignoring them or dismissing them.
Once the child or children realize that you are interested in what they have to say, they are more likely to interact and listen to you. You can now gently direct them back to your show or instructions.
You will have to OWL constantly throughout your show to make sure that your conversation with the audience carries on.
And if you’d like more information on this subject, check out the books It Takes Two to Talk; Learning Language and Loving It here: www.hanen.org