Communication and oral language in ECE
Oral language is incredibly important in enabling children’s social and cognitive development.
Communication and oral language skills enable children to both comprehend and use language to understand and organise their world. They givechildrenthe means to communicate and express themselves, to think, plan, develop ideas and problem-solve, and to conceptualise and access knowledge, as well as understand social situations and emotions.
Infants, toddlers and young children develop their vocabulary, sentence length, speech patterns and even the duration of their conversations based on what they have heard from their parents and caregivers. Children who have been exposed to a greater quantity and quality of language and communication often have larger vocabularies and better speech development at age three than children with less language experience. Cognitive development, social skills, literacy achievement and academic skills are also related to children’s language experience and communicative skills. Without sufficient oral language development, children find it difficult to achieve important interpersonal and academic goals, and are more at risk of mental health issues and anti-social behaviour in adolescence.
There is a large body of research that documents a link between levels of language exposure and children’s oral language development. There is also a significant evidence base documenting the negative effects of poor language development for a range of social and cognitive outcomes.
- Regularly talk, sing and read books to children.
- Use real language, but talk more slowly, emphasising key words and use shorter phrases, more repetition, gestures and facial expression, and a higher pitch.
- Focus conversation on what infants and toddlers are looking at, and what they are interested in.
- Be responsive to infants and toddlers by developing ‘serve and return’, to and fro exchanges.
- Make your language just challenging enough, for example, by offering new vocabulary or sentence structures, or using new concepts in different contexts.
- How do you ensure both quality and quantity of interactions with children?
- What opportunities are there for one-to-one and sustained interactions with children in your daily practice?
- How well do you respond to infants’ and toddlers’ attempts at communication?
- What kinds of language do children in your setting experience?
- Is everychild read to everyday?
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