Early childhood education sets the foundation for how children grow into lifelong learners. This process starts with communication, which leads to interpersonal relations and helps them flourish in the classroom and beyond. Those entrusted with giving our youngest students the proper tools must stay current on all research within this context to offer the best learning outcomes.
The College of Mount Saint Vincent’s online Master of Science (MS) in Early Childhood Education and Special Education (Dual Certification Birth-Grade 2) program equips educators with the knowledge and skills to teach early learners critical communication skills.
Why Communication Skills Are Vital at This Stage of Development
A child’s brain develops rapidly beginning the first day they are born and continues to soak up information like a sponge. According to an Edutopia article, the critical periods of brain development begin around age two, and the second period occurs during adolescence. The first critical period concludes around age seven, providing a prime opportunity to lay the foundation for communication skills.
Although the development of communication skills differs for every child, educators and parents can follow certain milestones to track progress. The benefits children reap from developing critical communication skills at this stage of development include:
- An enhanced social well-being
- Boosted self-esteem and self-assurance
- Ability to express themselves more clearly
- Feeling more comfortable sharing and learning new things
To prepare young children for a successful future in school and the world, children deserve educators who help them develop communication skills daily.
Ways to Support Communication Development in Young Children
Supporting communication development in young children, whether verbal or non-verbal, is critical for children to know and feel they are being heard or understood. Luckily, there are many ways to support communication development at home and in the classroom:
- Encourage children to use mirrors, play, songs, and stories to explore facial expressions. Learning facial expressions and what they commonly mean is a great way for young children to know what another person (or themselves) is communicating, even without words.
- Provide sensory experiences that allow children to feel, smell, hear, or taste different elements. Can the child explain their actions, or does their facial expression tell you information? Using different sensory activities allows children to develop new communication skills in an environment that’s new and exciting for them.
- Read to young children often (even babies!) from various texts.
There are immense benefits of reading frequently to children from birth and upwards. If possible, use different voices, facial expressions, and hand movements to bring the story to life. Allow children to ask questions about the story, and patiently answer them. Asking questions is the beginning of critical thinking and means they’re showing powerful listening skills.
Communication Skills and Strategies for Cross-Cultural Communication
Not only is it vital for professionals working with young children to help the child develop communication skills, but it’s also important that professionals possess skills and strategies for working with diverse families and people. If you work or plan to work as a school counselor or child psychologist, you must be skilled in cross-cultural communication.
The Center for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (ECMHC) states, “As part of self-awareness, consultants should recognize where they fall on the continuum of high and low context aspects of communication and what adaptations may be required for effective cross cultural communication.”
The ECMHC shares the following strategies that help show respect and may be helpful in communication with diverse children, families, and staff:
- Use visuals to aid in communication.
- Observe the communication styles and patterns of the children and families.
- Learn key words in the native language of the children and families in the program.
- Show respect and patience in learning how best to communicate with children, families, and staff.
- Engage bilingual staff and interpreters, prepared for working in the context of mental health consultation, to assist in communicating with families who speak languages other than English.
These skills and strategies can also be used in childcare and school settings to best communicate with diverse populations.
An Online Dual Certification in Early Childhood Education and Special Education
Educators can have a greater impact on children’s lives with the knowledge and skills to help develop communication skills in young children. The College of Mount Saint Vincent’s online MS in Early Childhood Education and Special Education (Dual Certification Birth-Grade 2) program has a course on Language, Cognitive Development, and Cultural Diversity that introduces these concepts.
By completing the dual certification program and passing certification exams, you will be eligible for initial certification in early childhood education and education for young children with disabilities in New York.