Learning through play

Learning through play
Children learn a lot at daycare by listening to the people around them. Stories, nursery rhymes, and songs also introduce new words that help children understand their surroundings.

Children learn a lot at daycare by listening to the people around them. Stories, nursery rhymes, and songs also introduce new words that help children understand their surroundings.

“Daycare is an opportunity for children to expand their knowledge and develop their language skills,” says remedial teacher Karine Busilacchi. This might happen through playing with building blocks, for example, or playing make-believe in superhero costumes.

Playtime happens to be how Julie’s son, Michaël, became an “expert” on dinosaurs. “Playing with figurines and flipping through books at daycare got him interested in dinosaurs,” says Julie. “We also started reading books with him at home, and now he can name almost every dinosaur!” Meanwhile, Julie’s four-year-old daughter, Élisabeth, has been picking up English at daycare. “She knows how to say some numbers and colours in English,” Julie marvels. “She learned just by playing with some of the English-speaking kids in her group.”

Even if the children aren’t talking yet, the daycare educators use words to describe what they are doing as they play. “For example, if a child is playing with blocks, an educator might say, ‘You’re picking up the blue block.’ Little by little, the children learn new words as their knowledge expands,” says psychologist Caroline Bouchard.

Perfecting language

“As parents, we have an easier time understanding our kids,” says Julie. “I find daycare helps children form more complete sentences. They have to use more words to get their teachers to understand.”

Daycare educators can help develop children’s language by using a rich vocabulary, making descriptive, accurate word choices, and occasionally adding a word or two to children’s sentences. For example, if a child says, “I want the truck” while pointing at a red toy firetruck, an educator might respond with, “Sure, you can take the red firetruck.” This encourages kids to talk.

What’s more, children get to listen to stories, sing songs, and recite nursery rhymes at daycare, all of which strengthen their language skills. “Given that written texts tend to use a more refined vocabulary, stories help children learn new words,” says Bouchard.

Daycare educators can also use books to make children think. “They can ask questions about the plot or get the kids to predict what’ll happen next,” explains Bouchard. “This gets them talking as well as thinking.”

 

A tool for disadvantaged families

A number of studies have shown that quality daycare services can be beneficial to a child’s development, especially with children who come from disadvantaged backgrounds or have behavioural issues. Being in a stimulating environment with plenty of people to talk to is great for a child’s development, especially when it comes to language. Building a strong relationship with the daycare educator also provides the sense of security they need to learn. “Another bonus is that parents who send their children to daycare get more time for themselves. They get the chance to look for work and seek support,” says psychologist Caroline Bouchard. “This can have a positive effect on the entire family.”

 

Photo: Nicolas St-Germain

 

Source: Naître et grandir magazine, March 2019
Research and copywriting: Julie Leduc
Scientific review: Christa Japel, full professor, Department of Special Education and Training, UQAM