A child’s language skills have been identified as a significant attribute influencing their developing self-regulation skills. Specifically, it has been suggested that children with greater expressive language skills experience more rapid developments in their ability to self-regulate. For example, children who have better language ability should be better able to employ private speech or ‘tap in to their inner voice’ when facing challenging tasks.
Scenario: Taylor and Hayley have been outside building a fort with sticks they have collected over the past three days. They have been busy for the last hour with the support of three other children and an educator. Just as they are starting to decorate their construction, one of the educators calls them inside for morning tea. Hayley says that she doesn’t want to come in, but the educator insists that she does, and says that she can return to the construction later. Taylor, realising that they need to go inside, says ‘Let’s pretend we want to have a snack!’
Encourage and model private speech. Verbalising your thought process can provide children with insight around engaging problem solving skills and making mistakes (e.g., ‘This is tricky but I can do it’).
Model your thinking and use language that extends on children’s own thoughts. While modelling is one of the most powerful teaching tools early years educators can use, this can be further strengthened when paired with communication. Verbalising the choices you make or why you are behaving in a certain way can support children’s understanding, while extending their language at the same time.
Encourage children to use language to guide actions. This is particularly important where children have difficulties in expressive language skills. For example, during circle time, when a child comes to join the group you may verbalise that you are moving over to make room for them to join.
Tie language to actions and descriptions, and reinforce this across different situations. For example, educators can support children’s understanding of what ‘paying attention’ looks like across different situations by providing a running commentary and linking it to their actual behaviours (e.g., ‘I can see that you were paying attention. Your eyes were looking right at the book like a beam of light and your hands were resting in your lap’ and ‘I like the way you were paying attention to Alyssa when she was telling you about her weekend. You were looking right at her eyes and your body was lovely and still’).
This principle and associated practices are referenced in the following sources of evidence in the EYLF: