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Importance of Language Development in Preschoolers

By Julie Vickers ; Updated April 18, 2017
Language skills enable preschool children to express their opinions.

Language development during the preschool years is important for the progression of children's cognitive skills and for their social and emotional maturity. Language skills (such as listening, comprehension and speech) are also important for the development of pre-reading and pre-writing skills, preparing children for literacy work at school. Parents and caregivers help preschool children build a foundation for all future learning by supporting their language development during these early years.

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Language and Cognitive Development

The development of language skills helps preschool children improve their memory, curiosity, concentration, thinking and reasoning skills. These skills help children use new vocabulary, improved grammatical skills and the opportunity for symbolic thought. Language development enables preschool children to use imagery as part of their thinking in order to discuss past, present and future events and their experiences of people, places and objects. Improved language skills also help preschool children to ask questions to gain knowledge and make sense of their world.

Language and Social Development

Preschool children with well-developed language skills, such as attentive listening and clear speech, are confident to express their opinions and enjoy playing with other children. According to child psychologist Dr. Carol Valinejad, "Children who feel comfortable expressing their opinions will be at an advantage in getting along with their peers compared to children who cannot." Language skills enable preschool children to understand the importance of sharing and taking turns and to enjoy cooperative play, creative play and games that require instructions or rules.

Language and Emotional Development

Preschool children who listen attentively and follow instructions from parents and caregivers will understand how to keep themselves and others safe. Language development is also important as it gives children a way of expressing their anger or frustration with words instead of using physical means, such as kicks, punches or temper tantrums. It helps them to see another's point of view and to develop empathy. Language skills also give children the opportunity to talk about anything that is worrying or frightening them. Preschool children who develop a love of language have fun playing with words and sometimes invent little nonsense songs and rhymes.

Language and Reading Skills

Language development in the preschool years forms the basis for learning to read. Preschool children extend their vocabulary and understanding of grammar through conversations with parents and caregivers and by sharing picture stories, songs and rhymes with them. This in turn helps with reading comprehension strategies and phonological awareness (awareness of sound-symbol relationships). Research shows that preschool children who recognize the sounds of rhyming words make faster progress in reading and spelling when they go to school. According to "AR State PIRC/Center for Effective Parenting," there is "a direct relationship between the number of rhyming words a child knows when entering kindergarten and later reading success."

Language and Writing Skills

According to "Highscope Educational Research Foundation," preschool children acquire language and literacy skills because their motivation is social. "It happens because young children want to interact and communicate with others." During the preschool years, "speaking, listening, reading and writing develop concurrently (together) rather than sequentially (one after the other)." In order to read and write, children must understand that letters are symbols representing the sounds of speech. Children who enjoy using language and develop a love of books will enjoy mark-making activities--for example, using crayons on paper or chalk on chalkboards--motivating them to communicate using symbols.

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About the Author

Mother of three and graduate of the London Metropolitan University, Julie Vickers is an early years teacher and writer who also loves to craft and create! She writes on topics such as education, health and parenting for websites such as School Explained and has contributed learning sessions on child development and behavior for the Education Information and Learning Services website.

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