A child’s language development through the preschool years

In a blog published last month, we talked about a newborn named Sammy. As Sammy ages, he’ll move into other environments, one of which may be an early care and education classroom. Assuming that this classroom is high quality, with nurturing and well-informed educators, Sammy will continue to learn more vocabulary.

Hopefully, he’ll be exposed to an environment that is print-rich and filled with many different kinds of print from books to magazines, lists, charts and labels. Teachers will read a variety of genre from poetry to non-fiction and everything in between. These types of opportunities will inspire Sammy to become engaged in print and to learn new words, read books and explore the world around him. He’ll become a speaker, a reader, a writer, a scientist and even a mathematician! Everything he does is intentionally planned to pique his interest and to engage is natural curiosity in all that surrounds him.

Photos of child with blocks.

Playing with blocks is a strong learning tool.

One of my favorite sites for children’s literature is the International Children’s Digital Library. Here, parents can find books representing their culture and home language! This library is amazing, and they are constantly seeking volunteer translators and authors!

Choosing an appropriate early care and education site for your child requires care and preparation. No one knows your child better than you. While it is recommended that you chat with neighbors and family you trust, please know that the program that works for your niece may not work for your child. When parents select a program that matches their child’s interests and temperament, the child will thrive. Likewise, when the match between the child and the center are not aligned, the child may begin to demonstrate behaviors that are inappropriate. Child Care Aware is a great site for suggestions on choosing the right center.

Moreover, Sammy will also take part in early literacy activities that are developmentally appropriate. It is widely known that language development and literacy acquisition are mutually supportive. When a child improves his listening skills, his speaking will be enhanced. Likewise, when a child’s reading improves, so will his writing. Therefore, Sammy will actively participate in reading activities in small groups, shared reading activities that will introduce early literacy skills as well as letter, sound and word play. He’ll even look at books independently. He’ll learn that he can gather great information from books. For instance, when architectural books are in the block center, he’ll be transformed into an architect who creates and constructs castles and space stations! My children loved building with Legos and Duplo Blocks as well as Lincoln Logs and wooden blocks. Block play is very important and can be a fun way to help children develop terrific words.

I know these sound like very sophisticated activities for a child who is three or four years old. However, if the activities are presented using every day materials and in fun, non-stressful ways, Sammy will not even know that he is learning.

Finally, there is an organization solely dedicated to the needs of young children – it is the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).  This organization sets the standards by which we create new programs for children and future teachers. NAEYC promotes parent involvement and provides generous tips for parents in a simple format entitled, Message in a Backpack. These ideas are easily completed and cover a variety of topics from “Playing Music at Home” to “Trying Yoga with Your Child.” Reading Rockets is another fabulous site that encourages all kinds of literacy activities for families.

I have been in the education field for over 40 years.  I have never met a parent who doesn’t want the best for their child and/or children.  If we give children a good start, they will thrive.  Remember, relationships, interactions, play and fun are important ideas.

Talk!  Read!  Play! Have many great days!!

Deborah Watson is the Academic Program Manager for Post’s Early Childhood Education program. Watson has more than 35 years of experience in the field of education and has been teaching at the college level for 17 years. Watson has a Master of Science in Elementary Education from Central Connecticut State University. Watson has a sixth year in Educational Leadership from the University of Hartford. 

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