If you’re considering a career in Early Childhood Education, language development is one of the most important elements of a child’s early progress. From initial cries and babbling through to three-word sentences, infants rely on different forms of language to communicate their needs.
Language is important for several reasons: it provides a foundation from which the child can communicate and participate in activities. It helps to builds confidence, assertiveness and allows a child to begin building friendship bonds. Language also helps children assess and convey the world around them, making sense of things through speech. However, 1 in 10 children have speech and language issues – so it’s important to seek assistance if you notice a child is not developing. See our guide to Childhood Development Milestones for more information.
Language isn’t just about speaking. Three key elements of language development for children are as follows…
- Listening and attention: children should show an interest in things around them. They should be able to listen for the voice of their parent or caregiver, and as they develop listen to others.
- Understanding: children need to be able to demonstrate that they understand language, that they can respond to verbal stimuli and differentiate between different requests and prompts.
- Speaking: verbalising their wants, needs and feelings is an important part of language development. Even as infants, we babble and cry to communicate – so it’s vital that speaking is continually developed to allow children to interact with the world around them.
As an early childhood educator, you’ll be in a unique position where you can help facilitate a child’s language development. You can do this directly with activities, and can also influence through your actions. This means that by being a good role model with your language, you’ll help develop a child’s speech even when not directly running language-based activities.
Passive language development
To develop language, you must be a great role model that children can learn from. Lead by example, and children will begin to follow. When it comes to speaking, you should always communicate clearly and calmly. Try to make eye contact with children when communicating with them, as this will help instil the idea in them.
Repeat sentences to children, reinforcing what they’ve said and correcting them on mistakes. When performing actions, verbalise and describe what you’re doing. Label objects and actions wherever possible, and always give patience and time to children who are trying to communicate. Listening is a great way to encourage development, so make sure you’re actively listening whenever possible.
Active language development
To actively encourage development, you can plan activities. Some of the most effective techniques for improving language development in children are:
- Reading books: By encouraging children to begin reading independently, offering assistance or reading aloud, there’s always a way to try and engage children with language through reading. Get children involved whenever possible, even if they’re just finishing off sentences or discussing the plot after a session.
- Sing-song: there’s a positive link between early childhood development and singing, so singing songs to children is strongly encouraged. It will teach children to learn to differentiate sounds, recognise rhymes and develop memory.
- Role-play games/show and tell: both are games that require active involvement and use a prop to generate engagement. Use a puppet show or show and tell to tie language to objects. Even the youngest children with the most primitive level of language can get involved and begin to learn.
Of course, there’s far more to developing language than just active games and passive examples. As an early childhood educator, you’ll learn how to build the foundation of great language in children, giving them the tools they need to succeed in later life. To enter the career successfully and as well-equipped as possible, enrol into our dual qualification: CHC30113 Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care and CHC50113 Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care today.