Top Tips for Preschool Children
By three and a half years old, most children will be able to hold a conversation with you and will be getting clearer with their talking. They may also be using describing words (e.g. colours, size and attributes) and asking lots of questions.
If your child isn’t developing language as expected and they go to a childcare setting, it is likely that your child’s key worker will be noticing this too.
Try some of these simple tweaks to your everyday interactions to build in opportunities for language learning. Feel free to share these with your child’s setting so they can build these into their daily routine too!
Talk to your child whilst you are getting them dressed in the mornings. Comment on and describe what you are both doing and try to allow balanced turns in the conversation, e.g. “Put your t-shirt on…. arms in…one…two!” Offer them a choice of what they want to wear whilst showing them the items (e.g. “do you want to wait trousers or a dress today?”, “pink socks or blue socks?”). Choice making and independence are important early skills for children to learn but by showing them the item at the same time as labelling them to associate the object with the spoken word. This choices strategy also helps children to learn to use new words and you’re helping them out by giving them a short sentence to copy when they are ready.
Children’s imaginations are really developing at this age and it’s important they have the opportunity to explore and nurture these skills. Try to be a play partner, join in with your child’s play and try not to lead or direct their play in any way, just go with it! During these times try to avoid questions, such as “what are you doing?”, “where’s the car going?” or “what colour is it?”, whilst it’s perfectly natural to ask questions to find out what your child knows, during these times it is much more helpful if you comment on what they are doing instead so they can learn the words and phrases that you are using (e.g. “oh look, you’ve got a dog!”, “that’s really small dog”, “ah, your brushing the dog’s fur”). Turn the TV and radio off whilst playing to help your child to focus all of their attention on you and playing. It’s also a good idea to silence mobile devices so you can give them your undivided attention.
Meal and snack times
Meal and snack times are great opportunities for modelling language as most children are motivated by food. You can use the choices strategy as described in Getting dressed and also give drinks and snacks a little at a time to encourage your child to use language to request more of what they want. You can model lots of different types of words during these times talking about how foods feel, smell and taste (e.g. “soft”, “squidgy”, “delicious”, “cold”, “spicy” etc). Getting all the senses involved can really help to strengthen their learning.
Sing songs and rhymes, make up or retell stories whilst you’re child is learning to sit on the potty or toilet. Give them books or pictures to look at and talk through the story or describe what you can both see in the pictures. Using specific praise can help children to understand the behaviour that is being rewarded (e.g. “well done for sitting on the potty/toilet”) so they are more likely to do more of the same.
Out and about
The great outdoors is full of language learning opportunities such as trips to the supermarket, playing in the park, walking to nursery. Why not get them to help you by giving them their own shopping list for your trip to the supermarket – you could draw a few pictures of some items on a piece of paper and give them a crayon for them to cross off once you’ve put it in the trolley, or see if they can remember to look out for one or two items. For a trip to the park or on the way to the nursery you could listen out for different noises or see how many yellow cars you can spot! We’ve got both shopping list boards and pictures on our extras
pages and listening walk
lotto boards on our activity pages of members area.
Sing songs about what you are doing (e.g. “this is the way we wash your toes, wash your toes….”) and play with your child and their bath toys. Most children love water play so make this into a fun activity rather than just a functional tasks. Bath time is an opportunity to offer different types of words as well such as action words (“splash”, “wash”, “dunk”, “dry” etc).
Every child benefits from having a bedtime routine, the earlier you start this the earlier they will get used to it. Try to avoid any exposure to technology within a few hours of bedtime to allow your child’s brain to calm down. Research has proven that TVs, DVDs and mobile devices, such as phones and tablets, stimulate the brain and make it harder for children to nod off to sleep (listen to our Podcast
on technology in our members area). Bedtime songs or stories can help to soothe your child as well as being an opportunity to help them to develop. Let them choose a song or story, or why not make one up together.
Take a look at these videos by The Communication Trust and I CAN which illustrate some of the points above:
Through the Eyes of a Child 2-3 years
I Can Chatter Matters Video – Ella 4 years old
Still concerned about your child’s talking or just want to do more? We have some great learning tools, activities and booster plans on our members pages.
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