Public Speaking for Kids

Helping Children Overcome Stage Fright - (Part 2) Folk Music Style

We've already written a blog post on one way to help your child defeat stage fright. Now we will look at a fun, creative and slightly more conventional way.

At Public Speaking for Kids we want to help you raise successful children. That is the root of what we do and we feel public speaking is the best way to do so given the universal characteristics and attributes it develops in a fun and safe way. Key to being successful is having a successful attitude. Having a successful attitude is quite simply about being open minded; about thinking of creative ways to push yourself though any obstacle rather than accepting dead-end fatalism. 

If your child flops when delivering their first speech because of stage fright and thinks that means public speaking is not for them because they will never be able to stand without shaking legs, remembering lines or their mouth not drying up and their throat constricting to the point of their voice becoming a squeak- encourage them to think again. There is a simple solution- a very simple solution to help them get their way through this.

 

First watch the short presentation below, then we'll explain in a little more detail what your child can do.

 

Got that? See what he did? Now, get your child to do the same. If stage fright is preventing them from speaking confidently about how they captained their school football team to success, then get them to deliver a speech about being afraid of speaking in public. This way the stage fright will be an asset to their speech. It will be an honest, heartfelt speech which resonates. The audience will surely respond to this and applaud your child, in turn giving him/her the boost needed to make more speeches. And it shall progress from there...

 

Make the world an oyster for you children. Get them involved in Public Speaking for Kids!


Helping Children Overcome Stage Fright (Part 1) -Extreme Sport Style!

 "Stage fright is the best thing about public speaking"! That must sound counter intuitive to you right? That must make you think we at Public Speaking for Kids are insane. But actually these are the words of a teenager who has been using this website for several months. Why does he think this way?

All speakers, in fact all performers, experience stage fright. From beginners to seasoned professionals, it is an understandable physiological reaction to facing the prospect of being the focus of attention in front of an audience, large or small. The difference is, the seasoned speaker will have learnt to channel that fear; turning it into a positive motivating force. And  they will have been able to do this simply by harnessing their experiences- but not necessarily good ones!

The boy we quoted above told us he is no seasoned speaker. He very much considers himself a beginner in public speaking. But he has learnt quickly. And what exactly has he learnt? That stage fright gives him the same adrenaline rush he gets when he takes part in extreme sports like BMX biking and snowboarding. Every time he gets on a bike or board he is aware of the possibility of falling off and hurting himself as he spins and twirls in mid air. Similarly, every time he gets on stage there is the fear of people staring at him hostilely,forgetting his lines, shaking uncontrollably and so on.

But when biking and boarding he uses mental discipline and sheer determination to stay focused. He wants to experience the thrill of being in mid air, of spinning round, of riding invisible waves. And when he is working on a speech he is determined to experience the adrenaline of connecting with his audience, seeing them smile at his insights and humour, then applauding his effort.

And most of all he loves the feeling of looking at his mirror reflection after a speech and saying to it: I did it. And you couldn't stop me. 

Indeed, the self, or the irrational self-conscious self, is the greatest block to overcome for all public speakers and performers. And the joy of overcoming one's setbacks, even if that be oneself, is one of the greatest human experiences.  

So if you want your child to overcome stage fright help them to understand what fear is and how it is usually sourced internally (in the mind) rather than externally ( social restrictions or consequences). Help them to see parallels between fears they have overcome in other activities and experiences  they enjoy, what drove them to overcome and how they can use those same principles to overcome stage fright and fear of public speaking.

Make the world an oyster for your children. Get them involved in Public Speaking for Kids!

 

Changing the attitude of a problem child

The foundation for success in any aspect of life lies in having a positive attitude. Often it can take years of failed ambitions, heartache and despondency before we realise this simple truth. But then, we learn best from our mistakes. But those of us who have experienced the toxicity of a negative attitude and have found light at the end of the tunnel can use that light to enlighten the next generation.

Children today are, at their core, no different from children of any other generation. As children, they, like us before them, want an endless supply of happiness and excitement and tend not to consider very carefully the consequences of constantly demanding and even constantly getting whatever they want.

That is when we parents feel inclined to introduce punitive measures to discipline our children. We take away their iPads and their phones, ground them and suspend their cash allowances thinking the absence of such things will magically make them repent and see the wrong in their behaviour and attitude.

But there is another more productive and fun way to turn your child around from living as a slave to their impulses and desires. There is a way that can fundamentally change their attitude, strengthen the parent-child bond and gear them towards success.

We assume -thanks to the self-help industry and mainstream psychology- that to change patterns of behaviour we have to change patterns of thought. (But professional psychologists once told mother’s to ignore their crying babies)!

As parents we think we can change negative thoughts and attitudes in our children by lecturing them. But ask any recovered addict or alcoholic- a person who will know profound positive change- and they will tell you in order to change your way of thinking you have to change your actions. Instead of lecturing your child about how physically active they should be, how healthily they should eat or how they should read more books instead of Facebook status updates- get involved with them in doing all these things: encourage them to take action! And get involved in that action yourself. Play a sport with them once a week, research new healthy recipes with them, cook together one day a week and read a book with them or start a book club for children they can get involved in. (You will be surprised how exciting children's literature can be).

And to motivate your child to get involved in these things (and to get on good terms with you) you may first have to treat them in order to foment the grounds of friendship.Take them on a short holiday, buy them some desired clothing or allow them to indulge in a one off junk food buffet- show them the atmosphere has changed. That way they will be more willing to change their behaviour and the attitude change can then follow more easily.

This may sound counter intuitive. You probably want to punish your child- isolate them from family and friends until boredom induces a change of attitude. But such an approach will only lead to superficial change. The best way to occasion profound change is to have a merciful and compassionate approach and to offer support. Your child cannot change without your help. So get involved in the things you want them to do. After all, the best of us lead by example.

And once you have developed a positive attitude in your child they will have a new found confidence to prosper in their public speaking activities.

Make the world an oyster for your children. Get them involved in Public Speaking for Kids!

 

Hand Gestures in Children's Speeches: Avoiding Overkill

To be a successful public speaker it is essential to be yourself: let your true personality shine. This can be difficult for children as they often learn through imitation: they try and emulate the people who they look up to: parents, teachers, entertainers and celebrity figures. This is not a bad thing in itself as learning through imitation is still learning, and as they grow older your children will develop their own identity.

The same applies to public speaking. To begin with, your child may adapt the styles of other public speakers and may even take on the advice given by websites like ours with too much exactitude!

One area children tend to apply too much unnatural focus is body language, specifically hand gestures. Tell a child they must make more hand gestures and they may start looking like a signer- flicking their wrists and pointing their fingers alongside every syllable.

Whilst no hand gesturing makes the speaker look uncomfortable, too much will seem forced and distract from what is being said.

The best ways to help your child strike a balance in the delivery of hand gestures during a speech are by practising in front of a mirror to find their own body's natural rhythm, and watching examples of overused gestures to see how cringe worthy and off putting they look.

We have helped you out with the latter by providing a video clip below:

 

Watch this video with your child and, without influencing them in any way beforehand with your own (or our) opinion, ask them what they think of the presentation without asking or mentioning anything about hand gestures. See if they can pick it up for themselves. If they turn around and say they think the presentation is an example of excellent hand gesturing, you will need to do a lot of work to turn your child into a star public speaker!

Make the world an oyster for your children. Get them involved in Public Speaking for Kids!

Vocal Projection Games For Kids

Projecting your voice is not simply about raising its volume. It is about how far your voice can go, not necessarily how loud. This is not an easy thing to explain to children. The best way to help them understand how vocal projection works, and the importance of it, is to provide them with games and activities which will allow them to discover vocal projection intuitively. Here are some we recommend (with special thanks to Dramakidz.org):

Follow The Leader

Get the family together and invite friends and neighbours too! Arrange the entire group into a circle with an appointed leader. Group members should start walking on the spot. When the leader makes a gesture the group must copy it. Then the leader must call out the name of a member. This member will become leader and must then make a gesture and call out the name of another member. Continue the game until everyone has had two tuns of being leader.

 

Greetings, Bean Bag

Place three bean bags in front of your child. One at a certain distance, the second, at the double the distance and the third at double the distance of the second. Ask your child to look directly at the first bean bag- imagining it to have human hearing- greet it and tell it their name, age and favourite hobby/pastime. 

Then ask them to address the second bean bag saying the exact same thing, then the third. Do they project for each bean bag. If not, ask them to repeat the exercise doing so.

Bullet Mouth Hide & Seek 

Play a game of hide and seek with your child. When they come to seek you, it is not enough for them to say they have found you. They must imagine their voice is an invisible bullet and they must shoot you with it. Until you drop dead you have not been hit. When they find you, stay standing until you think they are projecting their voices well enough.

Make the world an oyster for your children. Get them involved in Public Speaking for Kids!

Working on Storytelling Skills

Writing a speech is essentially telling a story. Whilst there are unlikely to be fictional characters involved (unless a point is to be emphasised using a hypothetical scenario) there will be a central theme and a build up to a conclusion.

Storytelling is a skill which needs to be developed well by your child if they are to achieve public speaking success. But telling a story is not just about content. It is also about the structure of the content, the delivery and the tone of voice used; all of equal importance.

It is important to get your child to appreciate and understand the concept of storytelling early on in their public speaking journey. This will not only help them with public speaking but also in other areas of their education, for example in English Language and Literature.

It will also develop a taste for art as novels, plays, films, dramas and songs are all mediums through which stories are told. And it is through art that we come to understand about people, places and cultures which host differences to ours; and our minds open up to seeing lives through different perspectives.

Viewing life empathetically is essential for a good public speaker: having the ability to see things from the audience’s point of view. If your child grows up to become a professional  international public speaker or takes on a role which requires international public speaking e.g. a leading scientist, a human rights lawyer, a successful businessman/woman, they will most certainly be required to speak in foreign countries and be empathetic to the sensitivities of foreign cultures.  Understanding and appreciating storytelling through its various art forms from a young age will facilitate such an ability.

Here are our tips for developing storytelling skills and appreciation in your child:

  • Encourage them to read a lot.
  • Ask them write their own stories and read them out to you.
  • Take them to the theatre and the cinema as often as possible, or watch films with them at  home, and discuss with them the story of the play/film watched.
  • Watch the news or read newspapers with them. Ask them what they think the motivations of the people in the news stories might have been and how things (if negative) could have turned out differently.

Starting young is best, but it is never too late to start developing the storytelling skills which can open your child’s mind and make him/her not only an excellent public speaker but also a kind and understanding person: and don't we need more of them for now and ever more?!

Make the world an oyster for your children. Get them involved in Public Speaking for Kids!

Be flexible with your child's routine

Routine is a wonderful thing. It helps us provide structure to our lives, to prioritise and to get things done.

But being absolutist about routine is dangerous. Yes, you may have set aside certain times for your child to do certain things such as their homework, piano practice and speech writing or public speaking activities.  And most of the time your child will follow the timetable laid out for them as best as possible.

But there may come days when sitting down at the allocated time in the week to practice the 12 major piano scales or researching the Napoleonic wars for the presentation due in History class will be the least productive thing for your child. If they are over stimulated by too much going on week after week, normal weekend downtime may not be sufficient to carry them through the following week. Boredom with routine can be accumulative and after 3 or 4 weeks of the same routine your child could burn out and lose all interest.  

At this point, if your child is too afraid of telling you they are bored or lacking energy and enthusiasm, and you cannot see it yourself, plodding through the motions of routine work/study/practice could be doing more harm than benefit to their self-esteem and general cognitive functioning.

It is essential to look out for the warning signs of disengagement in a child and to counter them immediately. In order to do the latter, encourage your child to discuss their feelings with you openly and honestly and promise and provide non-judgemental responses when they do so.

If you find they are lacking enthusiasm for their thirty minute practice of public speaking skills/activities one week, reschedule things. Play football with them in the park, or take them to the beach for a walk with a cone of their favourite ice cream flavour instead. (Engagement with nature works wonders on a subconscious level). Then ask them how they feel about doing 30 minutes of practice later in the day instead of using that time to play the Xbox. With a little flexibility and open-mindedness you can prevent your child from being overwhelmed by routine.

Make the world an oyster for your children. Get them involved in Public Speaking for Kids!

 

Public Speaking for Kids: Don’t Force It

All parents want the best for their children. This is easier said than done. But often parents can set standards so high that wanting the best can actually lead to the worst: you pressurise your child, you over-protect them and overwhelm them with extracurricular activities: they get bogged down by routine and lose the sparks of spontaneity and curiosity which make childhood, indeed life, a fascinating experience.

With this in mind, we are keen to stress that though public speaking skills can provide incredible value and enjoyment to your child’s life, don’t make them take up this art form if their hearts are not entirely in it.

Test the waters.Try out some public speaking games and activities in your own home before enrolling them in a club. But don’t force them. You can download our e-book to provide an inexpensive introduction to your child to test the waters, before throwing them in at the deep end of entering competitions and such if they would like to advance.

Whilst public speaking is a skill that is developed rather than lying innate, it requires a foundation of interest to develop from. This interest cannot be forced. If all your friend’s children are getting into public speaking that is great for them. But your child is a unique individual with unique interests. Work to find what makes your child tick, what they are interested in and also where they need to be patiently and productively challenged. Ultimately, if your child finds a hobby that they enjoy they can learn the core skills and develop the foundational attributes required for speaking well in public later in life: communication skills, confidence and assertiveness.

So in a nutshell, don’t push your child to do something they don’t want to do. Even if that is public speaking! That may sound odd coming from us, but we are here to provide you with the best possible advice to help you provide the best possible childhood for your child.

The Benefits of Poetry for Public Speaking

Getting children to become great at public speaking first requires the expanding of their minds, the cultivating of their imaginations and a grasp of basic communication skills-reading, writing, talking. One of the best ways to develop all of the above is by encouraging your child to read a lot. A love of literature will stretch your child’s potential beyond any limitations.

But how do you get your children interested in literature?

Ultimately, it is not something you can force onto your child. You may find they are more inclined to the sports field than the library. But you and they will not know if they like reading beyond the necessary school books unless they give it a try.

Some children steer naturally towards being avid readers. Others may benefit from a gentle nudge. A fun way to get reluctant children into reading is through poetry. Short, fun and entertaining poems could spark in them a love of words and exploration of themes through the written and spoken word. From here they may expand into short stories, novels, magazines and newspapers.

Poetry is often taught in schools across the world as a one off project: a published poet will come into the school and run a one day workshop. This often encourages kids to start reading more and taking language more seriously. This is an essential thing for children who want to express themselves through public speaking and all the benefits that entails.

But your child may not have that special poetry project at their school. 

Below are some poets who we recommend for your children to check out either audibly or via the written word:

http://www.michaelrosen.co.uk/- For children aged 5 to 11

Jacob Sam La Rose  For children aged 12 to 16

Gill Scott Heron For children aged 14 to 18

Make the world an oyster for your children. Get them involved in Public Speaking for Kids!

Optimising your child’s brain function

To ensure your child gets the best out of their brain you have to put the best into it. Life is tough and demanding at the best of times and a good quality life will pose for its subject an immense number of challenges. In order to get through these to the greener grass on the other side we have to use our brains to the best of their abilities.

When we parents of today’s children were taught about maintaining health we were taught entirely about physical health. The brain was given very little attention. But with the advancement of medical science and the rather paradoxical increase in mental illness, mental health is now given substantial air time.

Mental health is not simply about avoiding metal illness. It is about keeping the brain healthy and allowing it to grow. Yes, that’s right, your brain can grow: intelligence is plastic not static- it can stretch and expand; in medical terms this is called neuroplasticity.

Here are our tips for helping your child improve their mental functioning:

  • Omega 3: Omega 3 oils contain acids which can improve neurotransmission in the brain. A diet containing nuts and seeds such as almonds and flaxseeds as well as oil rich fish such as wild salmon and mackerel will boost omega 3 acid levels in the brain.
  • Music: Children who have had some form of musical training tend to have wider vocabularies and advanced reading skills. Music can also aid memorisation and retention of important information. Putting learning to music is a common thing- think of how your children learnt the alphabet.
  • Reading: Encourage your child to spend an hour a day reading from a continuing text i.e. a novel or non-fiction book as opposed to several different unconnected articles. Reading improves concentration, problem solving and can also boost endorphins in the brain which can improve levels of happiness. (In order to get your child to form a reading habit they may prefer short stories and poems before getting into novels).

Make the world an oyster for your children. Get them involved in Public Speaking for Kids!