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Chris Williams, founder of “chatta” and language development expert, explores ideas and activities parents and childminders can use to support children’s development in communication and language development. In the second of a series of articles, he suggests activities and ideas for children aged 1 to 2
12-24 months: A time of rapid development
During this period a child's skills and sensory awareness develop at a rapid rate. Everything seems attractive and worth touching, smelling, and tasting. Toddlers are full of energy, active and curious. Every game, interaction and activity is an opportunity for language. Developing children need to hear more words. Names for things, colours, places and people.
How children learn to speak
The way children learn to speak is based on the experiences they have and the words they hear. They learn from the interactions they see and experience. Adults support children’s development through informal conversations, through songs and rhymes with movements and through shared reading. Asking children to discuss stories or real events helps them develop their language skills, their thinking and understanding of the world.
Books and reading
Reading with children is an essential habit to form and to include in every daily routine. Stories aren’t just for bedtime. Stories teach children words and help them develop a sense of order and sequence. Stories promote imagination, questioning, discussion and interaction. Here are some great books to read for under 2s.
• Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet & Allan Ahlberg
• Gorilla by Anthony Browne
• The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
• The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr
• Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Apps and Technology
There are many digital games and apps that can offer appealing educational value but the use of some of these can be at the cost of essential early interactions and opportunities for speaking. There is evidence that Infants with more hand-held screen time have an increased risk of an expressive speech delay. The best way to use technology with children is to use smartphones and tablets to take photos of the things they enjoy doing. This will provide a pocket-sized photo album, which can be shared and talked about time and time again. Pictures of any enjoyable and memorable experiences can be a perfect starting point for conversations. Take pictures of games, places, people, favourite foods, pets, buildings.. in fact anything and everything.
There are countless places on our doorstep that offer free and exciting local outings. Every trip is an opportunity to learn and build experiences. Every day there are opportunities for conversations about the weather, how busy places are, wildlife around and the trees and flowers noticed in the gardens you pass along the way.
Things to try:
• Visit a local park and look at the gardens and animals as well as enjoying the swings.
• Catch a bus together, sit upstairs and experience a different view.
• Take a look at front gardens along your street, which are your favourites?</>
• Call in to the local library, sit together and explore the children’s books.
•Take a local walk and stop to sit on public benches and play I-spy.
Children aged between 1 and 2 continue to develop physically, once they have learned they are always on the move. There are lots of simple and stimulating activities that can become part of daily and weekly routines
• Make Time for walking.
• Get dancing. Pick a favourite song and dance to it every day.
• Playing with puzzles, blocks, stacking and nesting toys, lacing materials, etc., to develop fine motor skills.
• Playing with musical instruments.
• Finger painting, using crayons, and large markers
• Playing catch with a ball
Simple board games can promote turn-taking and interaction. But of course there are lots of other good ways to instigate interaction and turn-taking. Talking during play “my turn, your turn” for instance, is a vital way to model interactions. Playing games helps children develop the skills to use when they are playing with other children.
Try these games:
• Pop up Pirate
• Connect 4
Between the ages 1 and 2 children should be able to:
• Know a few parts of the body and point to them when asked.
• Follow simple commands (“Roll the ball”) and understand simple questions (“Where’s your shoe?”).
• Enjoy simple stories, songs and rhymes.
• Point to pictures, when named, in books.
• Acquire new words on a regular basis.
• Use some one- or two-word questions (“Where doggy?” or “Go home?”).
• Put two words together (“More milk”).
• Use many different consonant sounds at the beginning of words.
The importance of listening skills
It is crucial that children develop the ability to listen in order to interact and communicate with the world efficiently. As children improve their listening, they become better equipped to develop their language, social and learning skills.
These activities can help promote strong listening skills.
- Take a listening walk. Stop at different locations and listen to the sounds that can be heard. Point in the direction of the sound, is it loud or quiet? Can you imagine what it might be? Play an “I-hear game ( like I-spy).
- Play Simon Says. It doesn’t need to be Simon of course, it could be a familiar toy or story character. This is a great game to help develop careful listening skills.
- Play copycat games. This can involve clapping patterns and taking turns to copy the pattern. It can also be good for songs and words, sing songs, notes and tunes and encourage children to copy them back.
How can chatta help?
Chatta has been designed to ensure progress in early language for all children. The approach uses an app to capture images of events in a child’s life, along with the spoken words that accompany the events.
Childminders are able to share “talking postcards” with parents. One childminder,
Margaret Lonsdale, explained: “Whenever I do something new or exciting with the children we have a chat together. We put the images together and talk about what we did. When I send the chats to parents they are able to have the same conversations with their children, and even try out new ideas. I love using chatta with my children.”
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