Preschoolers (Age 3-5)

Developmental patterns for all children

In these early learning years, children’s primary attachment is with adults (parents, caregivers or teachers) who use child-directed language. Adults use simple sentence constructions with a great deal of redundancy and make efforts to elaborate on the child’s language attempts and to repair communication breakdowns.

At the same time, preschoolers are more ready to socialize, and interaction with their peers increases. These youngsters are developing the ability to communicate their needs and thoughts and begin to control their environment through the use of their developing language. As they play with peers, they are beginning to learn how to deal with conflict and how to solve problems. They are becoming sensitive to other children’s feelings and are developing a basic understanding of their own emotions and how to regulate themselves. A great deal of social development occurs through fantasy play and imagination.

Possible effects of hearing loss on informal interactions How parents and teachers can help
Language development and vocabulary may be delayed due to age of identification, level of hearing loss, beginning of language intervention program and other factors affecting learning

Communicate more with the child

  • Increase exposure to language through field trips, books and hands-on-activities (e.g. sports, art, gardening, cooking)
  • Provide direct instruction of new vocabulary
  • Create an experience books to prepare child for social events or field trips and then review often.
  • Attend to the new vocabulary words and identify environmental sounds that may be new or different
  • Children love books that tell stories about their own adventures: (

Give the child the specific language to express their needs, wants and emotions and model that interaction, (e.g.) Adult: “Did you also want to play with the blocks? Let’s ask him. Say, ‘I want to play too.’”   

Language that supports socialization and play may be learned more slowly by children with hearing loss as these language structures are often learned informally and incidentally through overhearing 

Directly teach, model and reinforce social and play language as well as appropriate interactive behaviour!

Encouraging friendships

  • Promote appropriate interactive behaviour such as greetings; making eye contact, saying hello and goodbye; smiling, being polite
  • Praise positive social and play interactions “It was very nice of you to give Sally your truck. I think that made her happy” or “Good sharing!”

Create opportunities for children to practice language through play

  • Create learning centres with emphasis on imaginary play
  • Role play stories and social situations with props
  • Use experience books to prepare child for social events and then review often and focus on new vocabulary

Encourage children to talk and interact with peers

  • Help children learn every child's name and for students communicating in sign language, share the student’s “sign name” with classmates. Encourage all classmates accept a sign name from the signing student
  • (
  • Incorporate songs that encourage social interaction (e.g., Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar

Develop Social Problem-Solving Skills and Language for Conflict Resolution

  • Redirect children to converse with one another - give the child the language to use, (e.g. Tell your friend, “I don’t like that” or “How do you play this game?” or “Help me push the wagon.”)
  • Help child develop sharing and cooperation strategies.
  • Create a cooperative art project - one big project that all create together
  • Limit art supplies so the children have to ask each other for supplies and allow extra time for collaboration
  • Have a share day
  • Make experience books of shared experiences

Develop skills to enter play

  • Model language needed to enter, maintain and end play, (e.g. “My turn”, “Can I have a turn?”, “I want to play, too”, “I’m finished now, here is the car”, “Your turn now!”)
  • Interpret the non-verbal behaviour of others to children, (e.g. “Look at Josie. She is eager for a turn.”)
  • Redirect children to talk to one another, (e.g. Tell your friend, “I don’t know.” Ask your friend, “How do you play this game?” or “Do you want to help me make a tower with these blocks?”

Role play stories and social situations with props 

May be delayed in recognizing and developing the language to express emotions 

Develop language to describe emotions and explain feelings

  • Label the emotions that the child experiences (e.g. happy, sad, angry, scared)
  • Teach what emotions look like on the face; what facial expression and posture tells us about what others are feeling
  • Recognize opportunities to discuss feelings and emotions as they happen (e.g. In stories: “Why do you think he’s crying?” or “What did she do to make him  happy?” In daily interactions: “Oh, look: Andrew’s eyes are big and wide - what do you think that means?”)
  • Teach acceptable ways to deal with frustration, anger or hurt (e.g. Tell him, “I don’t like that" or “I’m not finished my turn yet.”
  • Help children understand consequences of behaviour (e.g. “When you grab things from your friends, they might not want to play with you later.")
May struggle with self-identity and self-concept because of feeling different (i.e. use of hearing aids or cochlear implants, or a signed language)
  • Read stories about others who wear hearing aids, (e.g., Marvel Comics Blue Ear Superhero) or others who use sign language to communicate
  • Help them understand how hearing technology helps them hear their friends and take part in class activities and games and how using interpreters can be there to initiate connections with classmates
  • Encourage child to be involved in choosing the colour of their hearing aid/cochlear implants and/or molds
  • Introduce them to other students who wear hearing technology so they don’t feel like they are the only ones (Participate in VOICE family activities and camp


1. Anderson, K & Arnoldi, K. (2011) Building Skills for Success in the Fast-Paced Classroom. Butte Publications, USA

2. Jamieson, Janet. Hearing, Learning & Belonging: The Social Challenges – and Successes – of Hard of Hearing Students. Presentation at VOICE conference

3. John Tracy Clinic - Ways to Facilitate Social Skills. California, USA 

4. Estabrooks, S. & Estes, E. L. (2007) Helping Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students to Use Spoken Language: A Guide for Educators and Families. Corwin Press, USA



1. Felling Games for Early Childhood.

Kidlution,, founded by Wendy Young, aims to help children and adults who care about them deal with behavioural and emotional issues. Products build social-emotional skills that are predictors of happiness in life. Games and resources designed for children, parents, teachers and mental health professionals.

2. Story books about hearing loss are available through many of the hearing aid and cochlear implant manufacturers.

3. Oliver Gets Hearing Aids from Phonak. (Free download). Oliver is struggling at school and home to hear his friends and family. He sees an ear doctor who checks his hearing and fits him for hearing aids. Oliver loves his hearing aids and how much they help him.

4. Oliver Gets FM from Phonak. (Free download) Even though Oliver is wearing his hearing aids, he is having a difficult time at school. His audiologist suggests an FM system. Oliver couldn't be happier about how helpful his FM system is at school and at home.

5. Book Boosters! Companion to Oliver Gets Hearing Aids and Oliver Gets FM- 25 activities that build self-advocacy, language and literacy skills.

6. Sort and Say Feelings Students talk about their emotions while matching a feeling tile to feeling scenes.