We recently released our first app, First Words Checklist. The app is an informal vocabulary assessment on the iPad to help parents and early childhood teachers to better understand how a toddler or pre-k aged child’s language is developing.
Why assess language development? Children may develop at different rates, but all will eventually speak their native tongue. However, early language skills span beyond communication: language is the foundation on which learning is based. After all, without language, how can you learn new concepts, understand logic puzzles, or solve word problems?
Early language experiences have long-term impacts. A recent study showed that a larger oral vocabulary measured as early as 24 months predicts later achievement in reading, math, and behavioral functioning three years later at kindergarten entry (Morgan et al., 2015). Moreover, school readiness at kindergarten entry is a major predictor of later reading and math achievement (Duncan et al., 2007), and kindergarten test scores correlate with later outcomes such as earnings at age 27, college attendance, homeownership and retirement savings (Chetty et al., 2010).
As a parent, how can you ensure that you are best supporting your toddler’s learning and development? One way is through informal at-home assessments. Early childhood assessments sometimes get a bad rap because parents don’t want to subject their child to test taking so early. But there are ways to assess your toddler’s language in a non-threatening, engaging manner. Assessments can also take the form of observational notes regarding social/behavioral, cognitive, and motor development domains.
Informal assessment apps, like First Words Checklist, are helpful for a number of reasons. First, they can help your toddler prepare for iPad-based assessments, like the AABL or Kindergarten School Readiness Test (KRT/SRT), which are required for admission to some of NYC’s top private schools. Assessments can also help pinpoint your child’s strengths and weaknesses and serve as a starting point to guide future educational activities. With vocabulary acquisition, parents can also track development over time, to see how many words their child has acquired from month to month. Finally, at-home assessments enable parents to provide more precise information to a child’s pediatrician, caregivers, and teachers.