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Learning through play – Communication & language

Here we see three year old, Seb, playing at home and at his nursery, with friends and adults. Find out about the role of communication and language and how play supports this area of development.

Good for looking at

  • Communication and language development
  • learning through play
  • Effective adult support
  • Parents

Communication & language development

Developing skills in communication and language is central to all learning with young children. Playful experiences provide lots of opportunity to develop communication, both verbally through speaking and listening, but also non-verbally through gesture and body language. Communication is vital to relationship and babies and young children thrive on the rich mix of eye contact, gesture, facial expression, as well as the sounds and words that come with close contact from loving and affectionate adults who are sensitively tuned into them. They build their communication skills constantly through lots of playful opportunities for experimenting with sounds and language, verbalising and describing their actions and experiences as well as their needs and intentions. We can hear Seb’s language developing throughout the course of the film as he chatters to himself or initiates and responds to conversation with adults and other children.

Questions for Reflection

  • What evidence do you see of Seb’s progression in language skills?
  • How does play help to develop those skills?
  • Other than play, what else do children need to develop good language skills?
  • How often do you stop and really listen to children talking?
  • How often do you stop and listen to your own interactions with children – how much of your talk is about instruction and control?
  • Try little sessions where you reduce the amount you say, but increase your non-verbal communication – gesture, expression, eye contact etc. what do you notice?
  • Do you observe and record children’s conversations amongst themselves – what might they tell you that was different from the conversations they hold with you?
  • Seb and most of his playmates speak English as a first language. How would you assess the developing language of a child who doesn’t use English or is learning it as an additional language?
00:05
It's really important that children learn
00:07
how to understand others and make themselves understood.
00:11
Communication is central to learning for young children,
00:14
and as they mix with others,
00:15
talking about their needs and feelings,
00:18
these skills grow.
00:19
Shall I make a big boy
00:21
and that can be his breakfast
00:22
and we'll make his lunch?
00:24
No, yes, yes, it be his sandwich.
00:29
Seb's nearly three,
00:30
and I'm watching him talking with his mum.
00:32
You can see that she understands his language really well,
00:35
and she's listening and joining in his make believe game
00:38
with his toy dog.
00:40
Puppy wants to eat that one first.
00:44
What is this?
00:46
That's Puppy pretend eating his bone.
00:50
He's eaten it all up.
00:52
And he, yeah.
00:53
Because Mum's helping,
00:55
he's having a meaningful conversation,
00:57
and practicing taking turns listening then talking.
01:00
Yum, yum.
01:02
You're not eating it.
01:03
Just pretend it.
01:06
He's being pretending.
01:08
He's just pretending, is he?
01:09
He's eating it all.
01:12
It's eating it.
01:13
Is it tasting good, Pippen?
01:15
Woof, woof!
01:17
Yeah.
01:17
I think he likes it.
01:19
He's finished that.
01:22
He's finished.
01:24
What you making now?
01:25
He maybe make him a cookie.
01:28
A cookie.
01:29
Let's move on to watch Seb
01:30
with his friend Tilly playing at birthday parties.
01:33
You can see him trying hard to ask questions
01:36
and make suggestions.
01:39
You just have to put this one in, too.
01:41
Too.
01:45
And put in this one too?
01:48
Which one?
01:49
This one.
01:51
Let's not use this one.
01:56
It's a simpler conversation
01:57
than the one with Mum,
01:59
but just as important,
02:00
because he's learning how to have everyday conversations
02:03
with his friends.
02:05
As Seb learns to communicate well in words,
02:08
he feels confident in a group.
02:10
He's at ease here at the play group.
02:12
He's been coming here for six months now.
02:14
Give me that one.
02:15
Could I put this one?
02:17
So the soup makes.
02:20
That one in, that one in,
02:22
put that one in with my ins.
02:25
And he's using his developing skill with words
02:27
to sort out and explain things to others.
02:30
They should be ready!
02:32
Cookies ready!
02:38
Seb's becoming confident
02:39
in these social settings.
02:42
Seb's imagination increases through play,
02:45
and he's able to create more complicated games.
02:49
Telling others about his ideas helps to develop
02:51
his language skills further.
02:56
That's where they all are stuck.
03:01
They're stuck in there?
03:02
Yeah, 'cause the ghosts are fighting with them,
03:04
but they've still got their axes.
03:07
Oh, that's good.
03:12
Seb's nearly four now,
03:13
and he's talking with his friend Chelsea.
03:16
You'll see that things are more advanced,
03:18
and the two children show
03:19
a real interest in each other's conversation.
03:21
Is he a police man?
03:23
No, but what if our dad is?
03:26
Yeah, know what out there?
03:30
I'll turn into a doctor.
03:31
He's no longer limited
03:32
to talking about the here and now.
03:34
Developing language and imagination
03:36
make talking about the future possible.
03:39
I could go to your doctors and look after you.
03:42
The doctor could look after me.
03:45
Okay then.
03:47
Okay then.
03:49
These skills are some of the building blocks
03:51
of personality,
03:52
and they help children to take part
03:54
in the world around them.
03:55
Ready?
03:56
Yeah.
03:57
Okay.