Children are ready to learn language the day they are born. They learn their native language best during the “sensitive period”, the first five to six years of life. Building communication skills with preschoolers is an important process. There are many ways to add activities to your preschoolers’ everyday experiences. They are not limited to a classroom environment and can, really should, also be happening in the home with parents and caregivers. In our classroom, we work on communication skills starting with our toddler class, adding more as they continue in our preschool class. By working on listening and understanding skills, we are also building confidence.
When you are finished reading this post, head on over to my collection of preschool language development activities!
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Listening and Understanding
Listening is difficult for young children. (It is for adults, too!) Preschoolers want to talk right now, regardless if someone else is talking. Preschool teachers are well aware of those group gatherings where it seems like every child is talking at once, and each child feels what he has to say is most important. It’s important to start early on encouraging children to wait for the appropriate time to enter a conversation.
How we can help build listening and understanding skills:
Talk with them. Talk about what is meaningful to them. At the start of the year, I give parents a questionnaire to fill out, helping me get to know what their children enjoy. I listen to their stories throughout the year, taking note of family events and favorite activities. I think of all of this when planning certain activities because they will be more meaningful to the children. If they have not experienced what I am talking about, they are less interested in the activity or conversation.
Listen to them. I know it can be a challenge to stop and listen to what one child has to say when you have a room full of other little people. Especially when what they have to say is lengthy. But it is important. What they have to tell you, even if it’s something that seems trivial such as what was eaten for breakfast, is very important to them. When you stop, get down at their level, truly listen to what they have to say, you are showing them that their words are important. And if you then ask questions to extend the conversation, you will probably see their little eyes light up. You are building an important relationship while they are learning to feel confident with their language skills.
Put together activities that encourage children to talk with their peers. We have regular activities each day that get our preschoolers to talk to each other. Some of these ways include saying good morning to each other, having the sharing person talk about what they brought to show, having the class helper report the weather, playing group games that require working together during circle timeand small groups, working on group art projects, and playing large motor games.
Read books and sing nursery rhymes. Reading books and singing nursery rhymes to young children builds valuable communication skills. They are being exposed to speech sounds and language structure. We read and sing multiple times during our preschool day. Some are planned and some just happen. We have books in all areas of our classroom, not just in the reading and writing center. We also love to recite favorite finger plays and sing songs that get us moving.
Working on communication skills in preschool builds a good foundation for future school years, and for the rest of a child’s life. It’s easy to implement the above ideas in your children’s everyday experiences, building their language skills and their confidence.