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.

Ten books to read with your little ones this summer

A. L. Sestier chooses some of the best children’s books to consider for this Summer Term, as an invited guest author. A. L. Sestier is the author of the Peter Perseus series, and can be found on www.annasestier.com, Instagram (a.l.sestier), and Twitter (@ALSestier).

Finding new books to read with your little one can be a challenge. There are so many books out there and it’s difficult to choose a story that will really capture your child’s imagination. As an author and illustrator, I am always on the lookout for interesting reads partnered with colourful and timeless illustrations. I have put together a list of ten books, which are a mixture of new and upcoming releases, that pair sweet and clever stories with beautiful, elegant pictures.

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Alphablocks Nursery School chosen as Client of the Month by A&L

We are pleased to announce that our Barnet / Enfield nursery school has been selected as the Client of the Month for September 2016 by A&L.

Among various nurseries in Cockfosters, Enfield, Barnet, Potters Bar and the surrounding areas, Alphablocks Nursery School is unique in its unwavering commitment to personalized learning and its hybrid approach in early education, combining Montessori, Reggio Emilia, High Scope, and Forest Schools. You can read the full interview here.

“Natural Maths” for 3-5 Year Old Children

Can mathematics be taught at an early age? Is it beneficial to do so? What sort of mathematics can be taught in the 3-5 year old age group?

In this blog post we will answer these questions (and, as a sneak peak, here are the short answers: Yes, Yes, and Pretty Advanced Stuff, as it turns out!)

Mathematics can indeed be taught at an early age and it is beneficial to do so for at least two reasons: first, it helps put in place the fundamental mathematical concepts, which will carry a child’s understanding of the subject through primary school and beyond; and second, it introduces the topic without cumbersome tasks that tend to tire children and possibly dissuade them from taking up mathematics later on.

The prevailing wisdom among parents and early years professionals is that early math should begin with numbers and counting, starting with small numbers up to 5 and slowly introducing bigger numbers, before moving on to addition and eventually subtraction (in primary school). Multiplication and division are more advanced operations that are taught only in primary school. All through this linear progression from one task to the next, there is a strong focus on calculation. As a result, central concepts of mathematics, such as functions and variables, limits and symmetry, are typically introduced in high school. However, these very concepts are the ones that mathematicians identify as their true “tools of the trade”. The ability to memorize a multiplication table, by comparison, is only marginally useful.

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A Hybrid Educational Approach in Early Years

There are a number of established educational approaches in the early years sector and, even though there are many differences between them, they all share the same simple goal: to help every child fulfil his or her potential.

The main differences between these approaches lie in the fact that they use different methodologies, all of which are recognised by Ofsted and form part of the Early Years Foundation Stage framework. The Montessori approach, for instance, puts at its centre a child’s independence in learning and development, while the Reggio Emilia approach focuses on how the environment can act as a ‘third teacher’.

In this post we will navigate through the core approaches and explain, in simple terms, how we combine their best elements into a unique hybrid approach which is followed here at Alphablocks Nursery School & Pre-Prep, a boutique nursery in the heart of Hadley Wood village, serving the local communities of Barnet, Enfield and parts of Hertfordshire.

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