Most young children develop language rapidly, moving from crying and cooing in infancy to using hundreds of words and understanding their meanings by the time they are ready to enter kindergarten. Language development is a major accomplishment and is one of the most rewarding experiences for anyone to share with a child. Children learn to speak and understand words by being around adults and peers who communicate with them and encourage their efforts to talk. As I observed Olivia, a typically developing 5 year old girl, I referred to the Symbolic Play Scale check list (Westby, 1980).
This check list helped me to recognize the different stages of appropriate language development during play for her age group.
The list is based on play and language, and Olivia would fall under Stage X: 5 years of age. I had the opportunity to observe Olivia in her preschool classroom during playtime. Like most preschoolers, Olivia participates in play that includes give and take with her classmates. She was very much apart of the planning of what she and her classmates would do during playtime. She is what I would call a leader among her peers. Olivia’s first action is to set the idea of building a city with wooden blocks.
She of course assigns herself to be the boss of the job. She initiates the entire scene of the pretend city by saying ‘OK guys I’m the boss of the building and all you are the workers. First we will build tall buildings and then we will make bridges so the cars can drive on. After that we will make a park so all the kids can play.’ Through out the time of play Olivia sang songs that she made up herself, using her actions and incorporating them into lyrics. Her pronunciation and fluency was very clear compared to a few other children in her class. Once the city was done, Olivia let everyone know it was clean up time by singing the famous clean up time song.
Harris (1998) and Pinker (2002) argued that parental influences have been noticeably overstated in terms of their developmental significance upon children. Unlike many ‘traditional’ researchers whom may have considered parental influences to be fundamental to child development, many contemporary researchers, such as; Schaffer, Dunn & Fein, have began to focus their attention much more ...
This is typical of a child of Olivia’s age group. According to the checklist on Play, at stage level X, a child should be able to plan a sequence of pretend events. Organizes what she needs – both objects and other children (Westby, 1980).
Also, according to the checklist on language, a child should use relational terms (then, when, first, next, last, while, before, after) (Westby, 1980).
It was now time to move on to another activity. She has quite the imagination.
Olivia, with the help of her classmates, set the scene that she was a princess with long hair just like a recent book the class read. Her classmates were her hairdressers, and make-up artists. She would pretend her salon was a very big and pink castle. Olivia would tell the others how to braid her hair and put make-up on her. She told them ‘do my hair first then my make-up, and I want to wear only pink eyeshadow, and pink lipstick.’ Olivia is extremely creative with her imagination, which is also apart of the check list. Highly imaginative, sets the scene without realistic props (Westby, 1980).
Also, Olivia communicated with her peers in full conversations. I was very amazed at the appropriate level in which she was speaking. As a preschooler, Olivia has become quite adept to using language socially. She phrases requests to achieve a desired outcome. Olivia also uses social rules of language such as politeness, body language, speaking so the listener understands, and turn taking.