There is growing and continued evidence that the past year of lockdowns that the world has seen, has had an impact on young children’s language skills. Data from over 50,000 pupils and a survey of schools across England have shown an increased number of four to five years old requiring more assistance with language.
The combination of schools closing due to lockdowns, the need for PPE and social distancing, plus speech and language therapists being redeployed to the NHS front line, made delivering appointments at the very least challenging and in some cases impossible. In addition to less interaction and contact with family, wearing face coverings and social distancing has left children with limited and definitely fewer opportunities for conversation and to develop their language skills.
Evidence has shown that poor speech development can have long-term effects on a child’s learning. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) research suggests that young children are lacking in social skills and experiences which build a rich vocabulary.
The Importance of Outdoor Learning
Outdoor learning creates incredible learning opportunities for speech and language, and here are some ideas of how to incorporate them…
- Roleplay – put on a show or performance! An amphitheatre or performing stage is a brilliant way to encourage even the most reluctant of readers. Here they can bring to life the stories that they have created, or act out a story that they are reading. Outside performances allow children to experiment with their voices and they can be louder than be would usually be allowed in their indoor classroom environment. Our animal seating can also bring to life stories and can be incorporated into storytelling time and role-play activities.
- Storytelling chair You can create a ‘hot seat’ for children to share stories, amplify their voice and grow in confidence.
- Storytelling circle By creating a storytelling circle or area in your school playground creates a perfect space for adults to engage with children. It helps children to improve their listening and observation skills. Whilst sitting in the storytelling circle, the children can also work on maintaining attention. Storytelling circles can create a great environment for creating group stories, where the children can contribute to the evolving story. They can introduce their new character and add to the plot of the story. You can also add props such as dress-up items or musical instruments to the story too.
- Mud Kitchens – children can explore recipes (mud pies!), create potions. Children can enjoy becoming different characters, and it may encourage children to have more confidence whilst ‘in character’. Mud kitchens will also allow children to explore and discover new vocabulary associated with cooking, mixing, pouring etc
There are many ways in which simple activities in outdoor environments can promote and encourage speech and language development. The outside learning environment is rich in natural resources