Academic journal article Journal of Research in Childhood Education

A Play and Language Intervention for Two-Year-Old Children: Implications for Improving Play Skills and Language

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Childhood Education

A Play and Language Intervention for Two-Year-Old Children: Implications for Improving Play Skills and Language

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to develop an intervention for 2-year-old children to enhance play and language skills. The intervention was implemented over a 4-week period and included components of reading, modeling, and positive reinforcement of language and play. Specifically, children were read a story and played with a matching toy set. Participants included 10 children, all age 2, who attended a child care center. Five participants received the play intervention, and five were used as comparison. All children were assessed using the Play in Early Childhood Evaluation System (PIECES), the Preschool Language Scale (PLS), and a Vocabulary Assessment. The results of this study showed that children who received the intervention increased pretend play more than the comparison group and also increased comprehension and expressive communication skills more than the comparison group. Implications for early childhood educators and parents are discussed.

Keywords: play intervention, language development, early childhood, PIECES

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Language development and play are crucial to development in early childhood, because they affect subsequent development in cognition, academic achievement, social competence, and positive peer relationships. Unfortunately, not all children develop language and play skills sufficiently or at the appropriate time, and this can have several negative ramifications for young children, including difficulty engaging in social interactions, difficulty negotiating conflicts, inability to communicate needs, and tendency to peer rejection (Craig-Unkefer & Kaiser, 2002). In addition, inadequate language development is also related to problems with academic skills, specifically reading, comprehension, and spelling (Hay, Elias, Fielding-Bamsley, Homel, & Freiberg, 2007). It is crucial to intervene early with children, and research has shown that interventions can enhance language and play skills in the older preschool years (Craig-Unkefer & Kaiser, 2002, 2003; Mallory, Kelly-Vance, & Ryalls, 2010; Sualy, Yount, Kelly-Vance, & Ryalls, 2011). However, there is little research regarding language and play used together in intervention as early as age 2 (24 to 35 months), which is a vital time for play and language development and growth (Spencer, 1996). Language development and play development are correlated (Corrigan, 1982; Craig-Unkefer & Kaiser, 2002, 2003; Kennedy, Sheridan, Radlinski, & Beeghly, 1991; Lyytinen, Poikkeus, & Laakso, 1997; Rescorla & Goossens, 1992; Spencer, 1996; Ungerer & Sigman, 1981; Vaughn et al., 2003), and both are essential to overall development in early childhood, especially between age 24 to 35 months, when the development of language and play coincide (Spencer, 1996). This study explores the use of an easy-to-implement, brief play and language intervention for 2-year-old children for the purpose of improving language and play skills.

PLAY AND LANGUAGE IN EARLY CHILDHOOD

For this study, play is divided into three types: exploratory, simple pretend, and complex pretend play. Exploratory play involves manipulating objects in the most basic way, such as banging an object, pushing buttons, and opening and closing doors. Simple pretend play is a single act that is considered to be pretend play, such as taking a drink from a cup, feeding a doll, and making a doll drive a car. Complex pretend play involves pretend play acts in multiple steps in a sequence (Kelly-Vance & Ryalls, 2008).

Play is an important aspect of children's activities, as it is enjoyable and children spend much of their time engaged in it (Kelly-Vance & Ryalls, 2008). Moreover, engaging in play has long been believed to be beneficial to children because of its links to the development of language and cognitive skills (Fisher, 1992; Piaget, 1962; Vygotsky, 1933/1978). Although some have questioned the importance of play in early childhood (Ailwood, 2003; Christie, 1983), this study relies on previous empirical literature using play interventions to improve skills development in young children. …

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