Learning Through Play. Continuous Provision – Communication and Language

The importance of communication and language in early child development adds weight to carefully considering how we support it through our continuous provision.  

Language is important because it forms the foundations for interacting with other people – for communicating our needs, our thoughts and our experiences. From the moment of birth, babies are ready to communicate: they listen to and look at people and things in their environment, and respond to what they hear and see. – Every Child a Talker: Guidance for Early Language Lead Practitioners 

We have purposefully reduced the quantity of resources in our continuous provisions making them visually accessible. This assists the children in becoming independent decision makers, problem solvers, in charge of their own learning and having high levels of agency. Shelves filled with resources and overflowing boxes do not help children select what they want or need. Visual distractions may lead to disengagement from children who feel overwhelmed by the quantity, or scale, on offer to them, causing them to retreat in search of a quieter space.

An adults perspective and the perspective of the child. We need to ensure that our continuous provision is friendly and inviting for all children. We make sure to get down on the children’s level to see how the space is viewed from their perspective.

Lighting is an important consideration, both natural and artificial, to help facilitate children’s use of communication and language. Muted lighting can be relaxing, cosy and safe, enabling children to settle into speaking and listening activities and encouraging them to stay engaged. (Elizabeth Jarman – The Communication Friendly Spaces Approach, 2013)

Dens and cosy spaces, outside as well as in. The combination of small contained spaces with warm caring adults is a recipe for healthy communication and emotional well-being. By creating defined spaces we enable small group play where children can develop their speaking and listening skills with a handful of key relationships.

Babies are born ready and willing to communicate. They depend on interactions with others to become confident and effective communicators and Language users. – Birth to 5 Matters

Practitioners form an integral part of the continuous provision, giving the child the safety, security and understanding to make those initial attempts at communication, knowing they will be listened and responded to, building the skills for reciprocal communication.

Example 3. The child accessed the resources of their own choosing. Their play was animated as they let the car go down the ramp and it flew off the end. There was a practitioner close by and the child said to themselves, “I need the things, the things that make it stick together.” The practitioner says, yes, that’s right, the connecting pieces for the ramps. Do you know what they look like to find them?” The language used by the supporting adult encouraged the child to think about and solve problems independantly.

Each of our settings have mud kitchens forming important parts of their continuous provisions. The following example was sparked from a practitioner initiating play through modelling and providing a running commentary. This prompted a curious child to join, they quickly steered the play in the direction of their choosing, allowing the adult to step back and observe.

Language and culture are the frameworks through which humans experience, communicate, and understand reality. – Lev Vygotsky (1968) 

We do hope you have enjoyed this series of short articles about our continuous provisions. We are always keen to receive feedback so if you would like to get in touch please do email us, communication@willow-cottage.com, with any comments or ideas for future articles.