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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?

Talk to Your Baby Young children talking – The art of conversation and why children need to chatter by Di Chilvers Early Education