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Children’s language development and overall well-being

Language and Wellbeing

An important piece of research into language development and how it can be used as an indicator of a child’s well-being, was published recently, and we have been looking at its implications for early years practice.

The report highlights the centrality of language development for the overall development of a child (in the wider social, emotional, and cognitive contexts). In the words of its authors:

Early language acquisition impacts on all aspects of young children’s non-physical development. It contributes to their ability to manage emotions and communicate feelings, to establish and maintain relationships, to think symbolically, and to learn to read and write.

Implications for Early Years practice

  • Child language development should be formally monitored between age two and five, so that those not making good progress are offered additional support.
  • Children’s language development should be viewed as a public health wellbeing indicator, rather than just as an individual or ‘clinical’ concern.
  • Policies and practices must also address factors affecting the quality of the home learning environment.
  • Increasing family access to enriching resources, such as books, toys and educational experiences, is unlikely to be sufficient.
  • Strategies should also support the quality of parent–child interaction, including the quality of conversations parents have with their children.
  • Strategies should start early, certainly before children enter preschool and preferably before children are 2 years old.
  • Strategies should not end in preschool but continue throughout a child’s education, to ensure that the benefits of enriching early experiences are sustained.

Examples of how we support language development at Alphablocks Nursery School

  • We place primary importance on communicating as clearly as possible with “own words”, building on the non-verbal cues that children use to express themselves (this is supported by the use of Makaton and other sign language methodologies);
  • We extend learning and try to bring as much of it into the home environment as possible – through face to face, and electronic communication between parents and teachers (we use specialist early years software that tracks children’s progress and lets both parents and teachers leave comments, exchange ideas and upload photos, videos, and documentation);
  • Positive and enabling attitudes are always promoted – one should never “correct” a child’s language usage, and never tell children they are “wrong” – making mistakes is part of learning;
  • For instance, if a child says “I heard a carrot sing” (meaning a parrot) then the early years educator’s response would be along the lines of “Carrot sounds a lot like parrot – did you hear a parrot sing?”
  • We have specific learning projects, which make language learning fun and natural for children, such as (for example) our Bringing Stories to Life learning projects.

You can read or download the full report here.