At the recent Australian Council of Educational Leaders (ACEL) Early Childhood conference, a visiting professor from Oxford University shared some of his research from Britain that followed children from birth to 16 years of age. It overwhelming showed that children who hear lots of oral language from people around them and have books read to them each day do much better at primary and secondary school.
He said that poor literacy at school level had its roots in the early childhood years where often vital language skills were neglected. One of the emerging trends discussed at the conference was the increasing amount of time young children were exposed to television and screens at the expense of interacting with other people in their home and local community, and the concern for the longitudinal impact on these children as they progress through the education system. Several prep teachers and principals shared anecdotal evidence that they were already seeing a decline in oral language with recent groups of children entering schools, and a much wider range of oral language skills was evident also in recent years.
Things you can do to support your child:
- Talk to your child constantly – make your conversations about what you are doing and seeing together, walking down the street and explaining each thing you see is relaxing and great for a young child,
- Read to them at home each day (doesn’t matter if it is the same book each day!),
- Visit the library any day, or head in for baby bounce (9:30am Tuesdays) and story time (10am Wednesdays),
- Play with letters as your child gets older and interested . . .hint – start with the M for McDonalds and W for Big W.
- Play with numbers and shapes as your child gets older and interested – posing questions “What shape is the door?”
- Songs, poems and nursery rhymes are very important part of early childhood (your child does not care if you don’t have an awesome singing voice!) Double bonus: singing lifts your endorphin levels and makes you feel great!
- Please limit the amount of time your child has to television and touch screens (less than 1 hour per day collectively is optimal).
These are all things that we do each day with your children when they attend Grandma’s Place (with the exception of baby bounce, we do that once a month and go for walks in our local community on other weeks). This is the really important stuff for your child that pays big dividends in later life.
It’s really hard when you both work full time, or you are a single mum with no support network and you are exhausted at the end of each day, but please talk, read and sing to your child as much as you possibly can; your older self will thank you sincerely for the time invested now in your child’s growth and education and preparedness to play a positive role in our society as they flourish into adulthood.