The first five years of a child's life are hugely important in terms of development and sets them up for the rest of their lives. Understandably the first five years of life sees enormous growth as a baby grows into an infant.
You can easily monitor a baby's growth in weight and size, but what is more difficult to monitor is the development of their brain. Over this critical period the brain is forming and the neurons are evolving into a network that will power your childs thinking for the rest of their lives. Scientific research has shown that the more a baby is stimulated, the earlier their brain develops and the more attentive and clever they will grow to be in time.
Stimulating a baby from birth will pay dividends in the long run. This is why you should constantly talk with your little ones, even if they are nowehere near being able to communicate back. This is why you should expose them to lots of different environments - take them on days out, take them on long walks (even if you are simply pushing them in a buggy) and show them as many different experiences as you can. All of this will help their brain develop early on and you will be rewarded with bright children in the future.
Take your little ones to a park and look and listen to see animals communicating with each other, talk about how we talk to each other to communicate, and describe what other animals are doing. Look out for dog walkers who might be talking to their dogs, shouting commands to them. Look at how the dog responds, how do they show that they are happy? How do they play with their owners?
Listen out for birds calling to one another. When birds sing they are often exchanging song with a partner or potential mate. See if you can stand near to where a bird is singing and listen to its bursts of song. Then listen in the gaps between and see if you can hear thesame notes repeated back by another bird at a distance. Birds often exchange song in this way for minutes, you must just be patient to listen out for this and recognise that the communication is not simply one bird singing, but two birds exchanging notes.
Ponds should provide more evidence of animals communicating, especially when young ducklings have hatched. Look at how parent ducks protect their young from intruders - they will squawk at other birds and even people that step too close to their brood. Look at how ducks might peck each other to 'fight' over a partner. At the right time of year you might also hear the sounds made by frogs who make a terrific mating call, using sound to attract a partner.
Listen to what other noises you can hear from the park thamight interrupt birds communicating over distance. Can you hear the sounds of traffic? ...trains? ...aeroplanes? All this noise pollution has a detrimental effect on animals being able to communicate. Talk with your little ones about how this will impact their ability to communicate and demonstrate how you have to talk louder yourself as you approach the noise of traffic.
Parents, grandparents, celebrities and people from all walks of life have chosen to adopt a word in order to support the charity I CAN the children’s communication charity.
Some celebrity choices are shown below:
- Sara Cox: blossom
- HRH The Duchess of Cornwall: grandmother
- Sir Paul McCartney: gift
- Stephen Fry: wordy
- Graham Norton: frolic
- Dr Tanya Byron: mummy
I CAN promotes and supports parents and teachers, and indeed children, with communication. They claim that one in ten children has a communication difficulty and they try to help. Communication is so important because it impacts on all aspects of a child’s life. Apart from academic issues (reading and writing, passing exams etc.) there is also the fundamental issues like making friends, playing, reading etc. where communication is vital.
Why not adopt a word too and lay claim to a piece of our language for a whole year?! Go to the Adopt a Word website for more information.
Research suggests that of all the children in reception classes in UK schools, nearly half of them have poor language skills. This is an astounding figure and Early Years Practitioners are doing so much to attempt to help those children with their language and communication. The difficulty is not helped by the fact that children coming from nursery into schools are all at different levels of speech and communication so each child may need slightly different emphasis when it comes to helping their individual needs.
Communication is vital in various areas of development within the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). Communication is a two way process and we must listen as well as talk. Communication between children themselves is also important because if one child cannot be understood, it can lead to further problems and frustrations.
ICAN (the charity that supports speech and communication) claims that over 2.7 million children have difficulties communicating. There are various ways that teaching practitioners can assist with general group activities as well as individual attention.
How to improve communication with general group activities:
- Make sure there is lots of interaction between childcare providers and children
- Practice listening skills between both children and teaching staff
- Introduce rhymes and songs and tell stories
- Use props such as pictures and puppets and musical instruments, talk about them and describe them
- Teach signing actions in groups
- Introduce discussion topics and games
How do babies and toddlers learn to speak and acquire the knowledge to form sentences and become fluent communicators? Is it a natural skill they acquire or do they need help? Certainly children begin to learn to speak from the very day they are born. However, it is up to parents, to make sure they provide the children with the very best opportunity to learn to speak and communicate well.
How do they learn?
- Talk To Them - A mother who chats to her baby from the very first day, while feeding or walking or changing the nappy, is doing a great job to encourage good spoken language. Babies learn by hearing the spoken word and repeating and learning it for themselves.
- Show Them - Parents that discuss things in front of their children demonstrate the use of language and show the children how to discuss and communicate as adults.
- Play with Them - Have toy telephones to play with and set up pretend conversations. Chat about all sorts of easy things and encourage chatter.
- Share with Them - Families that have discussions over a meal share in the joy of eating and talking. Simply asking what happened at school or nursery today can be the simple question that leads to a great family chat!
Types of Language
By nine months, babies can understand simple words and commands ('stop', 'come here', etc.) even if they can't speak the words themselves. This is because there are 2 types of language knowledge: Receptive and Expressive language. When we listen we use our receptive vocabulary, when we speak or write we use our expressive vocabulary.
A child's passive vocabulary is improved through continuous repetition of words and phrases. Once repeated enough it becomes part of their passive vocabulary. So, the active vocabulary can only be improved through use of the passive. A child has to hear a word 500 times before it becomes part of their active vocabulary, so a parent needs to speak as much as they can to their children and in front of their children.
Here at ToucanLearn we offer a lot of art and craft based activities, besides keeping children occupied, there are very practical reasons why art and craft is important to learning children.
Before they can talk, art offers young children a way to express themselves and communicate ideas. Just as their sounds may not make much sense, so their splodges and scribbles may not mean an awful lot to you, but they are communicating ideas and this gives children a sense of freedom that develops further with language. They are also using their imagination and expressing what they see and experience in an abstract form.
Craft offers a way to explore the physical world. Art is tactile, you are experiencing different materials and textures, and interacting with objects to understand how they 'work'. There are malleable materials such as plasticine, sticky tack and dough; there are items that bend into shape and stay that way such as pipe cleaners, wire, even paper when folded and tucked into shapes. There are runny substances like paints and glue, they can be poured and spread. The variety of craft materials that a toddler experiences helps them explore the physical world and teaches the how different materials act.
Craft is about making decisions, not important ones, but decisions all the same. The thought processes that go on whilst your little ones are being creative inform their approach to problem solving. What are the options to make a googly eye stick to a piece of paper? Which one is best in this situation? How do I apply glue to the back of a small googly eye? As adults these 'problems' are second nature, but to a young child, these have to be learned and the lessons learned at this stage of their lives will inform all sorts of practical needs throughout the rest of their lives.
Of course, craft is also about developing fine motor skills, the ability to colour in within the lines; to stick glitter to parts of the page; to roll a piece of card into a tube and stick it into place. All of these and so much more rely on the ability to control hands and fingers in ways that are easy for adults but for children form an important part of learning. How can they learn to write when they get to school if they still haven't mastered fine control of their hands?
In addition to being graded according to the Early Years Foundation Stage areas of learning and development, all the activities we offer at ToucanLearn are classified by one of four overriding key development areas: making, moving, learning and speaking (relating to communication more generally). Most craft activities are classified as 'Making' activities with the focus on development of fine motor skills, but as you can see, art and craft activities help to promote development in all four of these key development areas!
ToucanLearn presents lots of fun game, craft and fun activities for toddlers and preschoolers, but have you ever wondered what the benefits of craft for toddlers are?
You probably realised that ToucanLearn is a pun on Two Can Learn, and this highlights our first benefit - supervising craft with your little ones helps strengthen the bond between you and your children. This can be especially useful for working parents who miss out seeing their children every day, undertaking craft with your young children will ensure that you dedicate quality time to them!
Craft offers an excellent way for your babies to explore the world and learn. Every ToucanLearn activity promotes child development and in the early years this is all about learning through experience. Craft comprises a diverse range of materials, tools and techniques, all of which will introduce new experiences to your preschoolers whilst developing their analytical and problem solving skills.
Most craft activities promote precise motor skills - the ability to hold a crayon, being able to direct it carefully around the page for colouring and writing, the ability to squeeze small dots of glue, to bend pipe cleaners into shape, to stick googly eyes onto fur balls; making pictures and models requires precision and as toddlers practice and practice craft, so their motor skills will improve.
Craft activities help to build confidence and self-esteem in your little ones. Craft gives them the confidence to interact with materials, to make decisions about how their craft develops, to learn to use tools and to choose what tools to use in different situations and to build self-esteem when they present you with a masterpiece!
While you're undertaking craft activities with your toddlers you'll be talking with them too, and the more they hear and communicate with you, the more their language will develop - that's all part of the quality time you're spending with them.
There are so many benefits to doing craft activities with your babies. They're never too young to start learning, even the youngest baby can begin just by touching and exploring materials, and you are never too old to undertake craft, perhaps you'll enjoy learning new techniques too!
Babies can distinguish your voice even before they can focus and see you properly. It is remarkable that within three years of birth, they have begun to master language to the extent that they themselves can talk and converse in sentences. Babies and toddlers learn language simply by absorbing what is around them and by mimicking sounds. You may feel daft talking to your baby constantly, but it is so important to do so because they are constantly listening and learning. Make sure that you explain what you are doing and where you are going - they can understand much of what you say before they are able to communicate back. Talk with your babies and toddlers constantly while you undertake ToucanLearn activities with them, every little bit will help with their own mastering of language and communication.