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S1_LSHSS-22-00196Freeman.pdf (484.86 kB)

Enhancing communicative abilities in preschoolers (Freeman, 2023)

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posted on 2023-09-15, 18:53 authored by Max R. Freeman

Purpose: Children’s vocabulary and syntactic skills vary upon school entry in depth and breadth, persistently influencing academic performance, including reading. Enhancing early communicative abilities through multisensory, playful, and conversational experiences is essential and will benefit children’s school readiness. This study investigated whether a language-to-action link created during language stimulation, which combines multisensory input, play, and conversation using clay, improves preschoolers’ communicative abilities in terms of vocabulary, syntactic, and pragmatic language abilities more than traditional toy-based language stimulation.

Method: Language skills were examined in a pre- to posttest design in which 43 typically developing participants, ages 3–5 years, were randomly assigned to clay-based (n = 24) or traditional play-based (n = 19) language stimulation for 8 weeks.

Results: Receptive and expressive vocabulary knowledge for items introduced in the language stimulation program, mean length of utterance (MLU), and conversational initiations improved for participants in the clay condition, whereas significant language skill growth was not observed for participants in the traditional play-based stimulation condition with toys.

Conclusions: A language-to-action link is created when children engage with open-ended materials, such as clay, as they craft target objects hands on and step by step, affording additional opportunities for language input and output. Results preliminarily suggest that using open-ended materials may enhance children’s communicative abilities in receptive and expressive vocabulary, syntax/MLU, and pragmatics (i.e., conversational initiations) more than prefabricated toy objects during language stimulation.

Supplemental Material S1. Example questions used by assistants for pizza lesson.

Freeman, M. R. (2023). Linking language to action: Enhancing preschoolers’ communicative abilities within language stimulation. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 54(4), 1308–1322.


This research was funded by the St. John’s University Seed Grant and the Richard and Camille Sinatra Endowment awarded to Max R. Freeman.