September 21, 2023

The Impact of Lockdown on Language Development

Recent research led by the Education Endowment Foundation has suggested that lockdown has taken a negative toll on language development among young children. So what exactly is the impact, and how can we help our little ones make up for lost conversation?

Lockdown has been hard, and many parents have been concerned about the toll it may have taken on their children’s development.

In a bid to measure this impact on a national scale, the EEF took data from 50,000 primary school students and surveyed 58 primary schools.

They found that, on average, pupils were around 2 months behind on reading, as compared to previous years. In addition, 96% of schools surveyed said they were concerned about children’s speech-and-language development, while 76% said that pupils starting school needed more support with communication than before.

What could this mean for our children’s futures?

Communication skills have a massive impact on all areas of a child’s life - both now and as they grow. According to educational psychologist Julia Dunlop, a child starting school with decreased communication skills may have trouble:

  • Expressing their needs and feelings in a constructive way
  • Forming friendships
  • Learning
  • Engaging in positive play experiences
  • Understanding rules and boundaries

Over time, this can lead to reduced self-esteem, a risk of mental health issues and academic difficulties.

This is, of course, concerning. The UK government has pledged £18 million to support early years catch up, but many of you may be wondering what you can do at home to ensure your little one’s language development.

Don’t panic. There is plenty you can be doing! Here are our top tips:

  • Use your full vocabulary
    Children begin learning language from the very day they are born, and using complex language is a great way for them to learn not only a wide vocabulary, but also the ins and outs of how language works.
  • Sing songs
    As you may have seen in our previous blog, singing benefits language development in a number of ways.
  • Narrate your day
    Talk about the things around you, comment on what you’re doing, and generally keep the conversation going! This will increase your little one’s exposure to language, whilst also reducing the pressure caused by asking them too many questions.
  • Build on what they say
    This can be a great way of teaching new words in context. For example, if they point at a flower and say ‘flower’, you could respond with ‘yes, pretty blue flower!’ Similarly, if they get a word wrong, demonstrate the correct pronunciation. For example, if they say ‘lolly’, you can respond with ‘yes, that is a lorry’.
  • Reduce background noise
    Keeping the TV or music playing in the background can make it harder for your little one to take in your words, so try to only have these gadgets on when you’re actively paying attention to them.
  • Be patient
    Children need a little longer than we do to formulate their thoughts into words. Allow them the time to think before pushing them to answer a question.
  • Read books and play!
    Stories and imaginative play provide opportunities to discover and test out new vocabulary. During imaginative play, children actually speak at a higher level than they do outside of play as they imitate children and adults, which is great practice!
    So, have some fun together and, when you can, invite friends round for a play date.

For some inspiration, why not check out this guide on how to use books to prompt play?

I hope this helps - happy chatting!

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