A pretend telephone communication can demonstrate a very young child’s grasp of speaking languages, imitating adult reality and being held in mind, as Anne O’Connor explains…
Jaleel is 16 months old. Both French and English are spoken in his family. He and Steven, an early years practitioner, are sitting together playing games and singing songs. Jaleel wanders off and picks up a pretend mobile phone. He pushes the buttons and puts the phone to his ear.
He walks back over to Steven, who asks him if he’s on the phone to his mam. Jaleel puts the phone to Steven’s ear and Steven pretends to talk to Jaleel’s mother. To finish the conversation, Steven says ‘bye bye’ and waves. As he repeats the words and gestures, Jaleel copies him, saying ‘ba bye’, and waving back. Jaleel then wanders off, saying ‘ba-bye’ with the phone to his ear.
1 Making connections with previous experience is an important part of early learning. Jaleel has had lots of experience of people talking on the phone. He knows how the buttons are pushed and knows that you hold it to your ear while talking and listening.
Exploring the pretend phone helps to consolidate the experience and allows him to behave ‘as if’ he is making a real phone call. The presence of an interested adult close by who is ready to build on this event, reaffirming and extending Jaleel’s interest, makes the experience more powerful.
Jaleel responds comfortably to Steven’s interaction and allows him to join in the play. He keeps hold of the phone, but puts it to Steven’s ear for him to talk, exactly in the way that adults often do to include children in a phone call.
Jaleel is telling us that he is beginning to appreciate what it means ‘to pretend’. Whether or not the phone is a ‘real’ one, he and Steven are ‘pretending’ to have a phone conversation with Jaleel’s mother. The look of involvement on Jaleel’s face shows that he is completely engaged with the game and doesn’t need there to be someone on the other end of the phone line to want to pursue the activity…
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Article written by Anne O’Connor and published in Nursery World © www.nurseryworld.co.uk