To have the best possible start in school, children need a solid foundation of early language and literacy skills. These are the skills that prepare children to read, write, and use the kind of language they’ll be expected to use in school.
The research says:
- Children who start school with higher levels of language and literacy go on to have higher levels of academic success.
- Children learn these skills best during language-rich everyday interactions about the things that interest them.
- Parents and early childhood educators play a critical role in fostering the kinds of interactions that help children learn.
What We Know
- We know that it's essential that parents realise how important it is to create a language building infrastructure at home.
- We know that children learn more when involved in things that interest them.
- We know that if we need to support children who are neurodivergent, there are elements of building language and literacy that will be challenging.
- We know that there are things that we can introduce to everyday activities that will help.
- You'll know what your child likes and dislikes. Use that as the guide and construct a framework around what works for you and your child.
What can you do?
PLAY TIME AT HOME is important when young children have been at school all day. Play is the time to create rich conversations and learn from your child what has happened in their day and create activity that they are interested in. Play time should be their time, doing things that interest them and keep them focused and in control.
We all know how engrossed we can become when we are interested in something and how good it can make us feel if we are enjoying an activity.
Classrooms can be fun, and children need to learn but play at home is an opportunity for parents to support children’s language development and oracy using your children’s interest and letting them take the lead.
Children that enjoy what they’re doing are far more likely to pay attention, learn, engage and feel less frustrated, especially if they are struggling with elements of their communication.
Try it out.
- Routines will help
- Set aside dedicated time for play
- Remove distractions
- Be at eye level with your child, whether on the floor or table
- Aim for face-to-face contact
- Whatever activity you're doing, let your child explore and wait until he/she has gained a focus on something
- Don't be tempted to lead!
- It’s ESSENTIAL to let your child identify the interest
- It's ESSENTIAL that you follow your child’s lead
- Copy what he/she does
- Introduce a word or comments (gauge what stage your child is at) and wait for communication from your child, whether verbal, eye contact or however your child responds
- Wait 5-10 seconds if you make a comment and maintain eye contact, giving your child time to process what is coming into his brain and giving time to prepare a response.
-MAKE A NOTE OF WHAT HAPPENS and use it to reflect on how the interactions have gone – what worked, what didn’t, what would you do differently next time.
The same approach as outlined above applies whether you’re playing at home or you’re on the go.
Think about how you set up the room or environment to create the optimum opportunity for your child to engage whether in eye contact, play, gesture, mimicking, whatever works for the stage they are at.
Here are a few ideas that you can try
On the Go -
When using playdough, give your child some time to explore the materials. Join in the play with your own piece of playdough and make comments about what both of you are doing. For example, “Whoa! My snake is big, but yours is gigantic!” Remember to pause for at least 5 seconds after you make comments to give the child a chance to think and respond.
When waiting in line, sing a song or rhyme the child likes, and pause during the song to wait for your child to do or say something. For example, sing, “Head and shoulders, knees and…”, then wait for the child to reach down to their toes or say “toes”. If they don’t do anything, point to their toes and say, “toes!” And maintain eye contact as much as possible. Observe how your child responds.
On the Go
Before sharing a new book, talk about the title and the picture on the cover, and have a conversation about what might happen in the book. You might start by offering your own idea about what might happen based on what you see on the cover, and then ask the child what they think. Communication happens in all sorts of ways, note how your child tries to convey a message or an emotion to you.
We’ve given tips on OWLing before – you can find that here. It’s an AMAZING tool.
Play isn’t always easy with children who experience challenges with speech and language and struggle with social interaction. We know that so very well and why we’re here to help.
It’s not only frustrating for a child, but it also influences our confidence as parents, sometimes not knowing what else we should do. Don’t worry, despite best efforts, things can go wrong.
Creating a positive play experience at home will help your child at school. It will also help him build the key social communication skills that so many children struggle with.
Remember that play isn’t about leaving children to their own devices or sitting watching a phone or tablet or tv screen. Children’s language skills need your constant input to develop to the maximum. It’s important for all children but especially so for a child who struggles with words.
We run workshops for parents and carers to learn more about how children’s brains develop, how to maximise language acquisition and social communication, and touch on some of the things that can go wrong, for example, how parents unwittingly adopt unhelpful strategies.
There is much more. Our sessions will help you put in place new approaches to use at home when you play with children that need help to communicate. Sessions also provide info and experience sharing opportunities for parents who often report that they feel quite isolated. Only people who share the experience of what it is like to parent children who are different really understand the challenges, both practical and emotional.
There is a genetic link established in language disorders and within the neurodiverse community, many parents also find that they too struggle with communication. If you identify with that and would benefit from support, we’re here to help, just give us a call.
Let us know if you’d like us to run a workshop in your area. You will learn lots of things that will help. Guaranteed. Contact us here to register your interest.
If children’s clubs or parent groups are running in your area, parents can always come along and meet the staff who’ll be happy to speak to you about any concerns. We have family coaches that can speak to you individually by appointment if you need that.
Don’t delay, start to help your child build their language and talking skills today.