As explained in our previous post on PSED, in the next series of our blogs, we will be taking an in depth look into each area of the seven areas of learning and development and talking about and demonstrating how we support the children’s learning and development in each area and the benefits this has. We will look at each area from a home-based childcare perspective, an early years setting as a whole and talk about how these activities or ones similar can be adapted and used at home to develop continuity across the child’s experiences and environments.
This week we will be looking at Communication and Language Development (CL), the second specific area of learning in the EYFS.
CL focuses on every aspect of children’s communication, from early communication from birth, through to language acquisition as well as their listening, attention and understanding.
As with PSED, it is difficult to pin point specific ‘activities’ that support children’s communication and language development and many underestimate the process of simply talking to children. As we’ve mentioned before, every opportunity is a learning experience and so just talking to children about what you are doing, asking them questions and maintaining a narrative, support children in not only developing language but also in understanding and leaning conversational skills and etiquette. Frankly, if a child doesn’t hear language, they can’t learn language and so it may seem silly to talk to and have conversations with children even from their earliest days, but these are the most important times, if children hear and experience positive and consistent language from their earliest experiences, then they are more likely to grow up with an extensive vocabulary, strong conversational skills and understanding of language.
Whilst it is important to talk to children in order to teach them how to acquire and learn language, at this stage it is also important to note that incessantly talking can limit the children’s opportunities to practice and develop their own speech and language so as practitioners and parents we give children time to respond during verbal exchanges – if we consistently provide children with answers and responses to questions, how will they ever learn the essential conversational skills in later life?
Allowing children adequate time to respond is particularly essential for children with speech and language difficulties and delay. It is natural for us as practitioners and parents to want to ‘fill the gap’ when we see children struggling to find the right words, however it is essential that we allow them the time to think about what they want to say and give them the time to formulate and express these words accordingly.
Simple activities to support and develop children’s language include naming objects as the child plays so the child builds their vocabulary even if they are unable to verbally express them. Another beneficial activity to develop language through play is the ‘Add a word’ principle. For example, if a child says ‘Car’ as they play, the supporting adult could add a word to this and say ‘Blue car’ in order to extend the child’s language, allowing them the time to process and respond or repeat this. This principle can be followed and used for longer, two-word utterances and simple sentences too and is a great way to develop language using and focusing on the child’s individual interests.
Similarly, repeating words and phrases back to the child is a simple yet effective method of not only developing language but supporting children in their understanding of tone, pitch and conversational skills. This also enables you to check you have understood/heard the child correctly whilst also allowing the child the time to think about their response to what they have said and the response you give them.
Communication and language is not just about children’s verbal abilities, but also looking at the various different ways that children communicate (pointing, gesture, body language, babbling and eye contact) and supporting and facilitating accordingly to enable children to develop their communication skills as a whole, not just their language. Simple things like ensuring you are at a child’s level, making eye contact as you communicate and using the child’s name, helps them focus and learn vital language skills as well as developing their vocabulary and supports and boosts the child’s Communication and Language development as a whole.
If you have concerns that your child’s language isn’t developing or have concerns about their speech and language, here’s a great tool that highlights what you can expect from your child’s language at each stage of development. However, if you are still concerned you should contact your doctor/health visitor who will provide you with advice and support on how best to support your child.
Here are some links to external agencies who can provide some great help and ideas to develop and support children’s communication and language development:
“The child begins to perceive the world not only through his eyes, but also through his speech.” – Lev Vygotsky