Key experiences for babies and toddlers-Communication
For this key experience, we will focus on sounds and words children produce using their mouth. The activities suggested are ideal for enriching children's vocabulary.
As we age, verbal communication becomes more and more important. It is the main form of communication. We depend so much on verbal communication that if, for any reason, it is altered, it represents a handicap. Just think of two people who speak different languages meeting for the first time to understand the possible difficulties and uneasiness caused by the inability to verbally communicate.
With young children, verbal communication is not their main form of communication. Nonetheless, they quickly realize the importance of language for the people around them and therefore develop a need to communicate verbally.
As early childhood educators, it is very important that we make learning verbal communication skills fun for babies and toddlers.
Here are a few interesting tips that can be useful for promoting the development of verbal communication.
Use children's interests to encourage them to speak
Observe the babies and toddlers in your group to identify their interests. It is easier for children to learn when they are interested in something. If, for example, a toddler shows an interest in his family's new car, talk about it. Use a picture of the car to name its color, to help him notice that the wheels are round, that it has four doors, etc. You can also have fun making car engine sounds.
Position yourself at their level
Whenever you speak to a child, position yourself at his level. Looking the child in the eyes will greatly facilitate verbal and nonverbal communication.
Speak slowly, but normally. Use simple sentences containing actual words, being extra careful to pronounce them clearly.
Give them time to respond
Wait a few seconds to give babies and toddlers the chance to respond, verbally or nonverbally.
Reformulate children's words to clarify their message
Even if a child mispronounces a word, do not feel obligated to correct him. Simply reformulate his message. For example, if a child says "daw" as he points to a dog, reformulate his message by saying, "Yes, you are right, that's a dog."
"Preverbal" language (cries, babbling, various sounds) plays an important role in language development.
Activities related to the key experience: Verbal communication
Talking into containers
Invite babies and toddlers to make sounds and pronounce words in various containers (funnels, cardboard boxes, metal boxes, empty toilet paper rolls, etc.).
Have fun recording toddlers' babbling and words. Listen to the recordings with your group. Repeat this activity several times.
No matter their age, children love animals. When you go for walks with your group, have fun making the sounds of the animals you see (birds, cat, dog). Indoors, use plastic animal figurines (for example farm animals) to encourage children to make animal sounds.
You will find plastic microphones that vibrate when you speak into them at your local dollar store. They represent great tools for language development since children are automatically drawn to them and tempted to speak into them.
Deposit a variety of interesting objects in a large gift bag. Invite children to take turns picking an item out of the bag. Name the different items. With toddlers, discuss the color, use, and shape of each object.
For this activity, you will need a cardboard box. Cut circles out of the sides of the box, big enough so that children can insert their hands. Set a variety of toys and objects in the box. Encourage children to pull them out one at a time. Name the items. With toddlers, fill the box with colourful balls and use them to name colors. Stuffed animals can also be used to encourage children to make the corresponding animal sounds.
Naming body parts
- With large stickers: Place a sticker on a child's body part and name it (for example, place a sticker on a child's hand, a child's foot, etc.). You may also encourage children to name a body part they want you to place a sticker on.
- With makeup: In front of a mirror, draw tiny dots on children's body parts (nose, stomach, fingers, etc.). Name the corresponding body parts.
Learning new words
As children grow, they become more and more curious about the things that surround them and their environment. Use visual aids to slowly introduce new words. Repeat new words frequently throughout the day. For example, if you see a snail at the playground, explore the word by drawing snails on a chalkboard, purchase snail-shaped stickers, find a book containing pictures of snails, display a picture of a snail on a wall within your daycare, etc.
Out and about
Walks often lead to wonderful opportunities to encourage children to use language skills. Visit interesting places with your group. For example, a farmers' market will make naming fruits and vegetables possible. You can also count the number of dogs you see during your walk or name the colors of the flowers you see in the flowerbeds that line the streets of your neighbourhood. Be sure to say hello to the people you meet and encourage children to do the same.
Use puppets for their "creative side". Make the puppets speak to your group or among themselves. Invite children to participate in a puppet show. Use a puppet to ask them questions and give them time to respond.
Playing with words
Pronounce a word many ways. For example, at snack time, you can say "banana" normally, quickly, slowly, loudly, as you laugh...or even whisper it. Toddlers will find this simple activity very funny.
Early childhood educator