Why use these strategies in the early years?
Many children face communication and language difficulties at some point in the early years. The earlier practitioners intervene and offer support the better the outcomes for the child. These strategies are not just useful for children who are experiencing difficulties but are important for all children in the early years as these strategies help to form the basic skills needed to understand communication and language. These simple strategies should be used as part of daily practice and you may choose to incorporate them into fun games, the weekly planning and IEP’s. It may also be useful if you make these simple strategies into posters to display around your setting to remind practitioners and parents of these tools in supporting communication and language development in the early years.
Face to Face
When talking to children it is important to ensure you are face to face with them. This promotes many communication and language skills including eye contact and attention. By being face to face with a child it enables you to gain their full attention which for some children in the early years may be difficult. They will also be able to see the way you move your lips and tongue whilst pronouncing words, this will help with their articulation and letter sounds. This is a very simple tool yet is often forgotten when calling across a room to speak to a child.
This is a technique which can be applied to all aspects of communication and language. This is very effective when reading stories and singing songs. This allows the children to make sense of what is being said and process the words being spoken, helping them to form speech sounds. This is also useful to use when completing an adult lead activity with a child as sometimes as adults we ramble and bombard the children with comments, questions and thoughts. Slowing down and exaggerating some words will give children the opportunity to explore language and investigate how words are formed and the sounds that are used.
Gestures are a great way for children in the early years to communicate and express themselves. This may be particularly useful for children who are struggling with communication and language difficulties or for children with English as an additional language. Gestures include waving, pointing , nodding and signing. Simple gestures can give meaning to a word for a child. Gestures can also help with any frustration which a child may be experiencing due to a lack of being able to express themselves and understand.
Add a word
When communicating and using language with a child in the early years adding a word to what they are saying is a great way to extend a child’s vocabulary. For example a child might be playing with the cars and say ‘brummm brummm car’ to which you may reply ‘bruummm bruumm red car’ This enables children to learn more about sentence structure, extend vocabulary and extend their knowledge into other areas of the early years foundation stage.
Watch and wait
As discussed above sometimes as adults we find it difficult to sit and embrace silence. As a practitioner in an early years you may feel like you are not doing your job if you are not joining in with play, commenting and questioning however sometimes silence really is golden. Wait for an indication that a child would like you to join in with their play and for them to use other communication and language skills to show you they are ready for you to engage in their activity.