CHILDREN soak up every little bit of stimulation given to them and all the little things make a big difference to the development of their speech and understanding of words. Simple activities at home or out and about really help set little ones up for school and beyond. Reception teacher, Becki Walker from St Mary’s and St John’s Primary School, discusses why communication at an early age is key to language development.
“BEING able to speak clearly, understand others, to communicate ideas and feelings and to interact are the building blocks of a child’s development socially emotionally and educationally*. A child who struggles to speak may struggle to
access the curriculum**.”
“Communication and language is a prime area in the Early Years Foundation
Stage. Making time to talk is just as important as making time to listen. The government document, Development Matters (2012) splits communication and language into three key areas: listening and attention, understanding and speaking.”
Here are some activity ideas from Development Matters:
From birth: look at your baby and say their name, make eye contact, talk to your baby about what you are doing (think out loud), use actions to support your words, use single words and speak clearly, encourage baby sounds and babbling and when babies try to say a word repeat it back clearly.
16 – 36 months: be aware that at this stage of development a child’s understanding is far greater than their ability to express their thoughts and ideas so don’t let this stop you from talking to them. Use picture books to introduce new language, use talk to initiate what your child might be doing, model sentence structure by repeating what your child says and then add in an extra (new) word and use play to introduce new words.
Becki continues: “Follow your child’s interests: talk about things that interest and excite your child. This will give them reasons to talk. High-quality interactions are key and The Communication Trust ( gives lots of great information and videos showing quality interactions. Play games to encourage talk and develop language. Always remember: don’t compare your child to another, every child develops in their own way and at their own rate.”
WHAT MAKES A
Eye contact! Get down to
your child’s level and make eye contact with your child whilst you are talking. They’ll feel less intimidated or overpowered
Talk about something your child is interested in or inspired by.
Do not be afraid of silence. Your child will need time to process what you are asking them, so give them time to think and then answer. If they are asked question after question then they can find it difficult to construct an answer in their head.
You don’t always have to ask a question. Use sentence starters and ‘thinking out loud’ techniques. Examples:
You have really made me think about, I wonder if I like the, I would love to find out. These sentence stems will encourage thinking and give your child more opportunities to do the talking.
Sources: *(Lee, 2008)**(Dockrell et al. 2008).
“A child who struggles to speak may struggle to access the curriculum.”