Though we may be told about various 'milestones' children reach in their development, it can be hard to know what we as parents can do to encourage this, particularly when it comes to areas such as speech and language.
So what is on the Curriculum in Irish schools, and what can parents do to support their child's development? Educational and behavioural consultant Camilla Marks gives her insights:
There is a new Primary Language Curriculum in Irish schools that is replacing both the 1999 English and Irish Curricula. The three main strands of the Language Curriculum are: Oral language, Reading & Writing.
The three strands will be taught through the following three learning elements.
Exploring and Using
Currently, the curriculum is being implemented from Junior Infants to 2nd class. The strands and elements of the curriculum are interconnected: They are designed to function as a holistic and interactive language and literacy learning experience for your child.
At any given point of your child’s oral language, reading and writing development from Junior Infants to 2nd class there is a progression milestone description which will help you to understand your child’s level of performance at each progression step.
We would expect that most children have reached stage A in each milestone by the time they enter Junior Infants. Typically, most children will have reached stage E in each milestone by the end of 2nd class.
The milestone descriptions outlined by curriculumonline.ie will help you get an overview of the oral language developmental journey, but below are some helpful hints to help you support your children to reach the early milestones of Oral Language Development.
Read Next: Motor Development Milestones
The foundation blocks for language development
As much as you can, provide lots of play opportunities! The first step at setting up interactive play-time is to hide all the screens. When children are engaged with technology, they are not socially engaging. Social engagement is a crucial part of supporting children’s language development.
There are many stages of play that your child will develop through. At each stage below, there are some helpful tips to support you to promote your child’s language development.
Large Doll /Teddy Play - Symbolisation (From 15 months on)
Through play, children learn to act out everyday events with dolls, teddies and a multitude of random objects. They start to understand that one object may symbolise another object. Children who can engage with symbolisation are learning the precursor skills that are required for spoken language.
You can help by: Incorporating teddies and dolls into everyday life and provide the real objects to support acting out the everyday routines. (knife and fork, clothes, toothbrushes etc…)
Small World Play (From 18 months on)
At this stage, children will begin to show that they can form concepts that are not directly related to themselves. At this stage, they are acquiring new words at a rapid rate. They can talk about the here and now and are beginning to link words together.
You can help by: showing your child how to relate miniature objects to dolls and teddies, and how miniature objects relate to each other. You can encourage them to try out new ways of playing with miniature objects and affirm what they are doing. (See below for interaction tips).
Role Play /Imaginary Play (From 3 Years on)
At this stage, children are showing that they can take on the feelings and experiences of others and they can begin to create mini-dramas with other children, to extend their understanding.
You can help by: Discussing the feelings and emotions of the characters they are playing. You can also help by adding some objects into the story plot that they are creating. If they face social dilemmas, you can support them by articulating, what would be a good and helpful thing to do in the situation
Read Next: Raising Bilingual Children
What you say and do is very important.
Follow your child’s lead when playing
They will be more motivated to engage verbally with you if they have made the choice of activity. If they don’t choose something, give them a choice between two activities.
Keep questions to a minimum
At this stage children struggle with too many questions. A question is an extra verbal demand that children in the earlier stages of language development may find difficult to process, and we can often disrupt the language flow if we question them too much. For example, 'Why did you choose that?' 'Why are you doing that?' 'What are you going to do next?' etc.
Make positive comments on what they are doing. Children will feel reinforced to say something if you have positively affirmed what they are doing. If they are playing with blocks, for example you could say:
'Wow you are building.' Wait and give them some time to respond. 'Building a house' Affirm and Repeat what they have said and Add a few more words. 'That’s right, you are building a big green house.'
Be very mindful not to make corrective or negative comments about what they are doing. If children feel they are getting things wrong, they may become demotivated to play and speak. For example: 'That’s the wrong way.' 'You are doing that wrong'.
It’s always much better to show them how to do something and then praise them for that: 'Look at Mammy/Daddy building the house.' 'Oh great, you put the brick on the roof.. well done!'
All children learn language at different stages and may often meet milestones at different ages. The greatest gift you can give to support them on this journey, is to attend positively to their play, and affirm their play activities with positive verbal feedback.