Sharing meaning with others (particularly adults) enables babies and children to reconstruct their own meanings. The ‘others’ may well be children encountered through a familial or child care context. However, from a linguistic perspective, it is more important that children have a secure relationship with adults “who listen for, [and] watch with interest   ….as they struggle to represent their meaning to others” (MacNaughten & Williams, 2009, p. 232).

This sharing is possible from a very early age – with babies being able to “express themselves through gesture, movement and sound , receptive to the patterns, sounds and rhythms of language from birth . A play environment is the perfect incubator in which babies and children feel secure enough to explore and experiment with language (Honig, 1990 as cited in MacNaughten & Williams, 2009). Babies begin ‘playing’ from a very young age, engaging  with adults as they develop a sense of self awareness and identity. They become phonologically aware by beginning to synthesise language, through an interchange of information.

Theorists agree that the earlier a child develops this phonological awareness, the earlier they can make phonic connections and begin to understand words in their entirety and to understand the words, they need to hear them spoken in context first.

The key here is the spoken word ; the combination of vowels, consonants, and phonemes that babies hear from the womb (Floor, 2006). This has particular application to the early childcare settings where the ratio needs to be small enough to enable educators to give infants their undivided attention. It is also particularly important for parents who need to make eye contact with and speak to infants as soon as they are born.


Gardner, 1982; Kearns, 2016; MacNaughten & Williams, 2009 MacNaughten & Williams, 2009; Blakemore, Dahl, Frith, & Pine, 2011; Goouch, 2013;