Learning language through play

E. Scholtz

As a mother of a 21-month-old, it has been fascinating to see that from such a young age, my daughter is so eager to learn about the world around her, absorbing every sound she hears and image she sees. Our aim as parents has been to create a space at home where our daughter can learn through play, particularly focusing on language learning through play. Through teaching, I have learnt that creating a love for reading, as well as making a child aware of sounds and letters, should start at a very young age.

Having had the privilege of working in a variety of schools, the lack of reading and comprehension skills found in the Foundation Phase really concerned me. We don’t necessarily need kids to be star readers, just eager to learn. Kids with all backgrounds and abilities sit in front of us on a day-to-day basis. As teachers, we are expected to teach them all in the same way. The norm nowadays is to assess their abilities and try to meet them where they are at – be it intervention or enrichment. Time-consuming? No doubt. Worth it? Definitely.

My desire as a teacher and as a mother is to encourage you to help equip parents to instil a love for reading and language in their homes. Language development should start at home and our aim as teachers should be to encourage and equip parents with helpful, practical tips that they can make use of. Below are some tips to create a fun interactive way of learning:

 At home 

  • Read aloud to your child every day, whether your child can or cannot read to themselves.
  • Make cards with words and pictures of items in different rooms in the house. Paste the picture and word cards in the allocated rooms for your child to see and say.
  • Using letters (plastic, sand moulds, rubber letters) play “hide-and-seek” with your child. Have your child find the letters that you have hidden and say them as they find them. They can also say a word starting or ending with that letter. 
  • Form letters in sand, make letters out of clay or paint letters with water outside on the tiles.
  • Sing with your child using action songs where they must follow you (e.g. the wheels on the bus). 
  • As you drive in the car, point things out to your child and ask them what letter the word starts or ends with. 
  • Play your child audiobooks. This can imprint a love for stories and storytelling. 

At school

  • Have a reading corner.
  • Write your own stories with learners in your class as the characters. This really excites and engages the learners and it is a great way of introducing learners to telling, and eventually writing of their own stories. 
  • Read aloud to your class and have your learners in the class read to each other.
  • Change the reading environment – why not go and read outside with your class?

Remember: Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body! In order to improve, one has to practise. 

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