Communication and Language
All of us are social beings and are ready for communicating right from birth. From the first moments after birth babies prefer their mother’s voice above all others. Mothers and babies quickly become ‘tuned in’ to one another – the baby looks intently at the mother’s face and she looks at the baby and communication has begun – through smiles, talking and gestures. Babies love to hear the voices of familiar people such as dad or a sister and communicate with them through turning when they speak, reaching out, cooing, and through facial expressions such as smiles. Communicating seems to be an in-built drive – and the ways we communicate rely as much on non-verbal means as on spoken communication.
In the Early Years Foundation Stage, Communication and Language is broken down into three aspects:
+ Listening and Attention
Listening and Attention
Through positive relationships children respond to eye contact, verbal and non-verbal interaction; they anticipate and initiate communication with others, learning to respond in many ways. Children do this through listening to others, watching and imitating them and through joining in with rhymes, stories and games using sounds and words. In this way they learn to attend to important features of communication and to respond, eventually being able to divide their attention between what is being said and what they are doing.
Understanding what has been said to them, saying things to others, being treated as a communicator and sharing in talk with others is all part of the communication process. In this aspect of communication and language children will show understanding in many ways including by responding appropriately to what somebody has said, following instructions and responding to and asking questions to check out meaning. Their understanding of what is being said to them far outweighs what they can say. Every experience a child has will extend their understanding if adults are there sharing the experience and helping them.
As babies move through their first attempts at communication, amazing things happen – they begin to say words and can communicate meaning even though they may not have words for all the things they want to tell us about. The store of words that children build up will help them to be effective and skilful communicators and, with help, and through hearing correct language use toddlers and young children will internalise the rules of grammar – sometimes trying out combinations of words to make short phrases and sentences – like ‘me do that!’ or ‘my going to the park’. In this process, they develop ways to express themselves based on their own ideas and experiences.
As well as communicating through words and gestures, children begin to communicate their ideas by making marks (and many other activities), sometimes on the settee or the wall, but usually on paper – at the beginning these marks are simply physical explorations of what the child can do and what the paint, felt tip or pencil will do, but eventually children begin to give some meaning to the marks they make and this can lead into many types of communication including drawing, writing and creating pictures or models. Additionally children communicate through the creative and expressive arts and through the ways they express their unique personalities. They also realise that, as well as human beings communicating with them, books, iPhones and TVs have something to communicate too! So toddlers choose favourite story books to look at and flick through photos on mum’s phone saying ‘that’s me’ or maintain interest for a while in very short TV programmes.