Speech and language underpins everything we do and allows us to build relationships and convey feelings. Adults play a critical role in supporting the development of these skills in children by creating language rich, stimulating environments.
Young brains are like sponges and want to soak up essential skills every day. By creating opportunities to interact and explore with others, children can practise language skills and share experiences that are essential for attachment, bonding and nurturing.
Top tips for effective communication:
- Minimise background noise such as televisions and radios
- Bend down to their level during play and follow your child’s lead
- Don’t use over complicated language
- Speak slowly and clearly, making sure your mouth is visible during conversations
- Repeat words and phrases to build understanding
- Use gestures to help convey meaning
- Expand on their vocabulary by repeating their sentences with additional words
- Give your full attention to conversations initiated by your child
- Pause after speaking to give your child the chance to continue the conversation
- Make every experience a language learning opportunity
Activities to try at home
Imaginative play scenarios offer great opportunities to feed in language and encourage creative play. Try swapping roles with your child and letting them take the lead. If you are role-playing a classroom environment let your child be the teacher! This will build their confidence and help develop their social skills as they use eye contact, turn-taking and listening skills. Try to input four comments to every one question, this will keep the dialogue flowing and provoke fuller responses.
Using a sculpting resource like Playfoam® is a good way to engage their senses and encourage conversation and language development. Use Playfoam® to sculpt a word and then see how many sentences you and your child can use it in!
“As my daughter moulded her Playfoam® into little sausages I would talk to her about each letter and even sound them out. Not only is it great for letter recognition but excellent for practising their fine motor skills. .” – Mimi Rose and Me
Mirror play helps children to visualise mouth movements when making particular sounds. Encourage children to hold a mirror up to their face and make sounds such as ‘p’ and ‘m’. Articulate each sound slowly to model proper positioning and demonstrate the differences in the mirror.
Positional words help children to:
- Follow and give directions
- Expand, use, and understand new vocabulary
- Describe the exact location of an object
- Build recognition of sight words
- Enhance beginning reading and writing skills
- Develop spatial awareness
Fox in the Box Activity Set incorporates wordplay with following directions, learning positional words, opposites and rhyming to help build important early reading, writing and language skills. Players select a positional word by spinning the spinner and place picture cards in the correct location i.e. ‘below the tree’. Game play can be adapted to suit auditory, kinaesthetic and visual learners!
Speech and language can be practised almost anywhere! Make the most of travel time by playing simple games that encourage interaction and conversation. Try these on your next road trip:
- I Spy
- Registration plate challenge
- Guess the character
- Figuro® Mental Maths Match
Speech and language are closely linked to reading skills. In order to read well you need to be able to speak and understand language. Incorporate reading into your daily routine and create excitement around choosing a new story to read. As you are reading, make comments and observations to spark conversations about the characters and the storyline. Make sure to explain the meaning of unfamiliar words and try to repeat them in different contexts.
Categorising objects encourages strategic thinking and descriptive language. Playing with sorting sets create opportunities to discuss shapes, colours and textures whilst aiding the development of fine motor skills!
Create your own ‘feely bag’ using a variety of items such as counters, mini figures and play food. Try to include as many textures as possible to incorporate sensory exploration into the activity. Ask your child to feel inside the bag and describe an item before taking it out of the bag and discovering what it is. This activity is a great way to encourage thinking skills and encourage descriptive and expressive language. Ask open ended questions to prompt deeper responses such as ‘how many ways could you use this object?’
Use photo cards to introduce new topics and prompt discussion. Cards that don’t have distracting backgrounds are the most effective for this kind of activity. If your photo card shows a picture of an animal you could use it to:
- Ask questions about the animal’s features and habitat
- Spark story-telling
- Practise phonological awareness i.e. “what sound does it start with?”
- Play memory games by covering the card up and asking about what was on it
“I have not seen anything like this before. They will certainly be a staple in my kit bag!”
– Belinda Robertson, Speech & Language Therapist
Action songs and rhymes
Music and communication are closely linked and can have a profound effect on a child’s ability to learn. Music and rhymes can be motivating, familiar and stimulate a variety of senses! By singing to or with your child you will be helping to develop skills such as:
- Maintaining concentration
- Anticipating what’s coming next
- Turn taking
- Non verbal communication and eye contact
- Vocabulary development
- Sentence development
- Phonological awareness
- Pronunciation and articulation
Try to incorporate visual cues and gestures into songs to help to reinforce meaning. When a word is repeated try and leave a pause to let your child fill in the missing word.