Oral Language Development and Imaginative Play

Oral Language Development and Imaginative Play

Oral Language Development and Imaginative Play

This is the first in a series of blog posts by Shane's mum Jenni, a primary school & early learning teacher with 20+ years of experience in the classroom. Jenni has a Master's Degree in Teaching and is excited to share her wealth of knowledge to the followers of Woodsprout!


Children’s oral language and literacy development has long been considered a practice that fosters strong readers and writers later in life. Oral language is how we expresses feelings, ideas and knowledge. Therefore, developing oral language means that the skills of speaking and listening need to become embedded in order for children to make sense of the world around them. Developing these skills will enable the development of crucial comprehension and writing skills as children progress through their years of learning.

Children learn through imagination and participation. You might see them pick up a stone and pretend it is a person or bounce it along the ground pretending it is an animal. They are using the object to represent something while giving it action and motion. This process of pretending is the basis of the development of many important and essential skills including oral language. Listen to your children as they play and you may hear words and phrases that you didn’t think they knew. They are very good at mimicking what they hear and using these new words as part of their pretend or imaginative play. 

From a very early age children show an interest in faces and sounds, especially the sound of their own voice. Quite quickly children develop sounds to alert their carers of their wants and needs through facial expressions and the sounds they are making. These special ‘conversations’ are the foundation to developing oral language where children have the opportunity to experiment with various sounds they can make that have meaning, giving them the ability to extend their vocabulary. 

Between the age of two and three years old children are beginning quickly advance their communication skills. This begins to happen as children are given the tools they need in order to expand their communication skills through cooperating with others, their social interactions with others and the way they are thinking and using their memory. Encouraging children to play imaginatively with toys and other children, making up creative games involving characters and allowing children to take the lead are all important elements in developing oral language. It’s important to have a range of toys that can support this from a very early age where children can participate in thoughtful, playful activities rather than formal activities.

As children grow and develop they become better at understanding others points of view and are continually building their knowledge around the concept of language. They are becoming inquirers, asking questions and developing an interest in pictures numbers and words. Providing a rich assortment of toys and cultural experiences helps children to begin to make more sense of their world and the world around them. They are beginning to recognise the themselves as learners and actively seek out opportunities to expand their oral language through play based activities.

If students have been exposed to play based learning that is imaginative and creative, their oral language skills will allow them to take part in a variety of conversations and routines. Learning about the rules of conversation through their development of oral language enables children to practice sharing, taking turns, how to respond to others needs and wants and most importantly the ability to listen. They will have built up a sound knowledge bank and be able to decipher between social conversations and discussions that have an end goal with a desired outcome. This will ensure children are better equipped to enter the school environment as confident little people who are ready to embark on their learning journey with a sense of wonder and excitement and the ability to be confident communicators! 😁


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