2011 is the national year of communication; Hello is a campaign to promote the importance of children and young adults talking to each other and communicating effectively. Visit the campaign website at http://hello.org.uk/.
They maintain that communication is a skill to be learned and that it is a vital part of life. The statistics state that over 1 million children in the UK have a language, speech or communication problem. In poor areas, over half of the children begin school with language or communication problems. This makes school much harder for them and can lead to all sorts of struggles in later life.
Hello aims to help those children by providing resources for parents, carers and teachers. There will also be events throughout the country to support and promote the idea of good and effective communication.
ToucanLearn is very much in support of programmes such as Hello. One of our key skill categories is 'Speaking' where all sorts of activities, games and ideas are provided in order to help parents and carers encourage, entertain and also inspire children to speak and communicate more. For more information and great ideas, sign up at ToucanLearn where learning is fun for your and your little ones!
There are so many children and toddlers for whom English is not their first language; when it comes to observing these children in a childcare setting, whether it be a nursery or childminders, it is very easy for the carer to suggest that when it comes to communication, that the child has"no language". In fact, they do have a language, its just they are not using it or English in the setting, so carers need to be careful in these circumstances. Children need to be encouraged in both languages when they are little to avoid problems of alienation and isolation.
Why should parents, carers and teachers encourage bilingual children?
- It means the child usually knows about 2 cultures, 2 sets of traditions and 2 sets of rules for speaking
- It means they may be confused about different words or phrases which are used in different situations
- They can be scared to take chances when it comes to speaking or answering questions
- Making friends may be harder or even impossible if the other children can communicate more easily
- It may make the children more inclined to listen carefully and think about things or answers to questions even if they do not actually speak or contribute; they may still know the answer
How to help:
- Be calm and patient. Don't expect them to speak with the same confidence as children where English is the first language
- Allow them to listen and observe before addressing them with a question
- Speak to them just the same as you would other children; look into their eyes and address them with warmth and clarity; move your mouth to create the words and don't speak until you make eye contact
- Point and gesticulate too and use sign language to help communicate
- Sing lots of songs and rhymes together
- Keep any setting quiet and calm so everyone can hear well and communicate without shouting
Children learning more than one language at a time do generally start speaking a little later, but in the long term, but this does not mean that they will never learn to talk. In the medium term they will rapidly grasp both languages and they will have a beneficial skill that will put them in a strong position throughout their lives!
It's so easy to say "I'm fine" when someone asks how you are and the same applies to children, but such a response often masks true feelings. Are young children really fine or are they actually a bit under the weather or even unhappy? What are their likes and dislikes? For little children it's hard to know if they are really happy or not - they may not know how to express themselves even if you ask them. However there are ways of exposing whether children are happy and one very good way is through drawing.
Children find drawing a good way of expressing themselves and for many children it's an easier way of communicating especially if they don't have the words to tell you exactly how they feel. You can also use a child's drawing as a way to start a conversation about feelings and whether they are happy or not. Here is a simple way to investigate how a little one may be feeling.
- Clear a table and give your child some paper, a pencil and some crayons
- Ask them to draw a picture about how they feel today; give them some pointers if they need, but try not to tell them what to draw
- Chat about the drawing and ask questions about it
- If they are still in the mood for doing a bit more, ask them to draw their happiest day ever; again, try to get them to use their own ideas
Compare the two drawings and look especially at:
- The size of the people and their expressions
- The size of the things they have drawn ie tiny house or large bold house?
- What colours have they used?
- What are the people doing?
- What's the weather?
There is no hard and fast explanation, but research tends to suggest that the figures will be boldly drawn and have happy faces if the child is feeling happy. Things or people that the child likes will be larger than those things they do not like. Activities the child likes will be larger and more detailed than those they don't like. They may choose their favourite colour for things and people they like and a less favourite colour for things or people they don't like. People drawn closely together tend to be the child's favourite people and less favoured people will be drawn further away.
Compare the pictures on different days and see if there are any dramatic differences. Keep the pictures and over time build up a real picture of your child's thoughts...
Dramatic play is a great way to encourage communication, teach your children about social behaviour and show them how they should respond in unfamiliar situations. It is a means by which children can imitate adults and act out various situations. But, remember even dramatic play, is still play! Don't make it arduous. It's just a way to re-enact situations or practice behaviour and use their imagination! Most of all, its a way to have some FUN!
When children dress up and do dramatic play, they can try out new roles, experiment with behaviour and watch for other people's reaction. It's a way to further understand their world.
How can you encourage this type of play? Here are a few tips.
Be a playmate. Don't just tell them what to do; get down there and play with them! If you become a playmate, an equal, it will seem that you are both on the same level and this may encourage dramatic play. Act out going shopping, going out for coffee, going to a library. Get your child to talk and act like the shopkeeper or librarian. Choose a situation that your child will relate to. Keep it casual, keep it simple and keep it fun.
Don't interfere. If you want to encourage creative, dramatic play try not in interfere too much or lead the game. Try not to suddenly announce all stop for lunch and spoil the flow. Why not have lunch in the underground cave or on the pretend plane? Play along with what they are doing. Welcome their ideas.
Space. Creative play needs space so try to create some space that can be used and not worry too much about it getting messy or untidy! A dining room table can become a cavern, the sofas can be moved round to create an indoor play house. It can all be tidied away afterwards! It helps the children be creative in their play and makes them feel they are a little in control of the game if their ideas of building a blanket rocket are not always met with a no!
Ideas. Use things you see or read about as ideas for imaginative play. Create a fairy cave or a vets on the moon in your living room and try and encourage any ideas your child has.
It's a good idea to have a collection of bits and pieces that you can use again and again for dramatic play. You could use an old cardboard container as a prop box and keep some useful props in there at the ready. Or, just gather the bits and pieces as you need them. Below are some ideas of things to put together to really make a bit of imaginative play into something really special - especially if you permit your child to use real, grown-up items!
Ideas for a prop box:
- At the Beach: Sunglasses, towel, sun cream, shells, play food, picnic rug, sun hats
- The Vets: Stuffed animals, cotton wool balls, doctor's kit, blanket, basket, money, boxes, real carrot for the rabbit
- Post Office: Pens, paper, paper clips etc. Paying-in slips and forms from a real post office/bank. Money, envelopes, junk mail, hole punch, stamper.
- Decorator (a good one for outside!): Buckets and pots of water, apron, different sized paintbrushes, child step to reach high, cap, rags and cloths.
Put a bit of thought into your dramatic play together and you'll find you both really enjoy it!