Why language development is important to a child

Educators believe that an active and stimulating environment enables children to develop listening and speaking skills, among other things. / Net photo

With the current situation, parents are spending more time with their children at home. And education experts are of the view that focus might be given mainly to older learners, with little assistance given to younger learners.

They (educators) believe that an active, stimulating environment enables children to develop listening, speaking, reading and writing skills, especially those below the age of seven, which will be helpful in the future.

 

Jacky Osama, an early childhood education teacher in Kigali, says first of all, parents should provide an environment with manipulative materials that enable children to develop personal skills.

 

She says a child always pays attention to every sound made in the environment, and that’s why they tend to shake objects to hear the sounds they produce.

 

This activity when repeated, she says, enables children to be active listeners and pay attention to everything, which will make them good listeners and learners in the future.

“They develop the ability to read when they observe items in the environment using their senses, and always try to imitate what they observe,” she adds.

What to put into consideration

Everlyne Kiribwa, an early childhood development (ECD) teacher at Bright Angels International School in Nyarutarama, says language is an important skill that allows children to express themselves.

It also helps a child to adequately exchange information with others at home, and even at school.

For this to happen, she notes that language should start at an early stage when a child starts to mutter the first words.

“It’s important to pay attention and respond to them at this stage by repeating what they say, clapping, or showing signs or gestures. This imitation helps and encourages them,” she says.

However, Kiribwa says it’s important to speak to a child when doing a certain activity, this will help the child to do the same, even when he/she is playing alone or with others, and it develops language.

For instance, she notes, a parent can communicate to a child by pointing, use of gestures, and so forth.

Kiribwa points out that it’s also important for a child to understand the language used to communicate, so that they are able to put words together to make a sentence.  

When this happens, Kiribwa says, a child is able to communicate, understand commands, directions and information given by others. 

“Language development in children helps them to relate well with others as they grow, and they can socially interact well with others when at school, and most importantly, throughout their life,” she adds.

Diana Nawatti, the head teacher and counsellor at Mother Mary Complex School in Kibagabaga, says children learn to be independent when guided at an early stage, and that language activity can boost a child’s confidence. 

Why it’s important

Maurine Muteshi, a teacher at Premier ECDE Teachers College in Kigali, says language activity helps polish children’s inborn abilities to acquire language and activate their linguistic abilities.

She explains that children are born with a natural ability to acquire language, and that in the human brain, we have a language device that aids learning of language.

It also introduces children to the written word, she says. 

She says it enables children to express themselves. “Language is used to communicate thoughts, feeling, emotions and needs, as well as widen children’s general knowledge,” she adds.

Through language, Muteshi says children interact with and benefit from the environment they live in. 

“Teaching children language improves their listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills. Children are trained to pay attention to what they hear.  It is done by exposing them to various sounds and training them to discriminate different sounds,” she explains.

This behaviour, Muteshi says, makes them better readers and writers because they retain the information and imitate.

The role of parents

Osama says parents/caregivers should help children by providing a variety of objects to play with, and ask questions based on what they see.

She explains that children become great writers when given the opportunity to manipulate things around them, hence, developing fine muscles/ motor abilities that enhance writing readiness skills.

Osama says children express their emotions in many ways, for instance; crying when they are upset, smiling when they are happy or even colouring roughly on a paper to show frustrated, to mention a few. 

Therefore, she says, it’s important for a parent to be aware of all this in order to provide the support needed at the right time.

Osama points out that parents should know that when a child imitates a new word, that is language development acquired through listening.

“Children use language to share ideas. They are small persons and have feelings so they want to be listened to.

“As parents or caregivers, always observe and listen to every conversation of the child to expand his/her language,” she notes.

Another key aspect, Muteshi says, as a parent listens, they can use key inquiry questions that are open ended to enable them to expand on what they are talking about.

This, she says, will expand their vocabulary and create bonding.

When given enough materials, space, time, attention, appreciation and motivation, Osama says they become creative thinkers and innovative.

This is one of the key competences in education globally. Their creativity is seen in the ideas they come up with and what they put down on paper, according to her.

Like Osama, Nawatti says parents’ motivation provision of resources makes the child to want to repeat the action, and may repeat it in a new way of making the child a creative thinker.

Experts believe that since language is a tool for communication, caregivers/parents should support the development of language in children.

This, in the long run, helps children speak fluently and improves their oral skills, and widens their general knowledge by exposing them to the written word.

Additionally, Osama says providing them with emotional support by showing love and counselling whenever they are down is important.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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