The Magic of Language in Early Learning

~ Art by Dawn Hyde ~


There are tricky ways to hasten the learning of letters for young children today, and proud parents announce that their child knows the alphabet at 18 months! Some mothers are rushing to follow this trend. Very young children can learn to read, but it is a rigorous adult-led process.

“ Language has a mystery and a magic to it and we cannot transmit this aspect of language to the child unless language holds for us the same place in our life as other creative life forms. Language is a creative act, it has beauty form and structure.” 

– Dr Maria Montessori

Dr. Montessori became famous because she showed the world the capabilities of young children. She observed the process of learning writing and reading skills and in return, the children showed her how they unfold. Montessori schools offer the same sequence of presentations to children. It results in a full understanding of written language, not a fragmented understanding. I would like to reinforce the importance of this sequential way of presenting language in keeping with Montessori.

I believe we lose the joy of transmitting language to our children if we just allow them access to an app to learn their sounds and rush to teach letter recognition.

Where is the mystery and the magic?

Parents are aiming for results and achievement, but children need interaction. They thrive in a rich, full language environment and experiences of love and togetherness that reinforce the learning experience.

Language is communication!

What is appropriate for a 1.5yo child when her mother feels there is an interest in language?

At this age the work in language is enriching the vocabulary –

  • Naming objects and speaking clearly.
  • Reading to the child.
  • Singing songs.
  • Drama with voices of different tones.
  • Animal sounds – birds singing, dogs barking.
  • Sounds in the neighbourhood – wind in the trees, cars, planes.
  • Opportunities for the child to express herself.
  • Drawing and painting.

The magic and mystery returns when we think of something extra to bring the experience of language to life. Finger puppets are a possible way to relay a parent’s particular sense of amusing a child. Even romping games with dad or grandpa can include drama.

When a child draws and paints regularly she advances to the symbolic state and begins to talk about her pictures. This interaction within the family gives the child the chance to express herself, as she feels secure and accepted. In this environment the child will have confidence to express herself fully.

What is required to advance in language development?

  • Order
    The child’s personality is helped to develop order through the exercises of Practical Life.
  • Self –confidence
    This happens as the child gains independence and has the feeling “I can do things, I can change things”.
  • Tools and Materials
    Items used in Practical Life exercises.
  • Didactic sensorial materials for refining the senses
    Writing implements, book, paint brushes.
  • Movement
    The child learns easily when she utilises movement.
    Tracing the sandpaper letters with fingers aids the child’s memory of the shape of the letter.

As the child develops, her language development increases. Language work should coincide with the child’s sensitive period to language. Learning is effortless at this time.

What age do I trace the sandpaper letters?

  • It depends on the child and the previous preparation.
    2.5 to 3.5yo for sandpaper letters.  St Nicholas Montessori in London recommends starting at 3.5 years.
  • Writing at 3.5 to 4.5yo.
  • Words at 4.5 to 5.5yo.

The joys of reading gradually open up to the child over this time and if done in this way it will produce many sweet memories.
Instead of rushing this process in an anxious race, put some charm into the presentation of language.
Offer personal interaction, which is so valuable.

P.S. I have written a follow-up to this blog – The Sound Game For Early Learning .

Please share and leave a comment below.

Dawn Hyde is a former Montessori preschool director, mother of three, and has nine grandkids. Dawn’s passion is early childhood education – particularly for parents to use at home. Her blog posts provide good practical ideas that you can use with your child. She is also writing and illustrating parent guides and kids’ picture books. Why not subscribe to keep up-to-date with her blogs?

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