Language from 3 to 5
Language skills begin at birth, with those important interactions between parents and babies. As babies grow into toddlers, their vocabulary seems to explode and in turn leads onto more sophisticated language and use of grammar in the pre-school years of three to five. Early language skills are the basis of later literacy skills: reading and writing. Although all children develop at their own individual rate, children of this age can normally listen to longer stories and retell a story they have just heard. They enjoy talking about what is happening in their lives and about things going on around them that are important to them. They are keen to use their improving language skills and ask many ‘why’, ‘who’, ‘when’ and ‘how’ type questions. Some children will be speaking in sentences with four or more words.
The role of the adult continues to be important in helping to promote language. Talking with children about the events of the day, for example helps both language skills and improves memory and sequencing. Playing games that use words such as “big” and “small”, and joining in imaginative play with children increase vocabulary and develop understanding.
The Every Child a Talker programme was aimed at promoting children’s language and communication skills from birth and is effective with children in this older age range. This programme complements Phase1 of the phonics-based programme Letters and Sounds by emphasising listening attentively, enlarging vocabulary and speaking confidently to other children and adults. Having rich language-filled environments of sounds, word and rhymes are essential for promoting language. We know, however, that there are still children starting school without the range of vocabulary and communication skills which are vital for learning and making friends. The ECAT programme offered many ideas for practitioners and parents – songs, sharing books, story sessions, and visits to the library, aimed at making great communicators and happy children.