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Our Favourite Ways to Encourage Children to Talk

Early exposure to vocabulary and sounds is so important for children's language development and this is often underestimated in a child's early years before starting school

 

7% of children have a speech or language impairment and unfortunately this is effecting development when children enter schools.

The government has developed an initiative called Every Child a Talker (ECAT) which is designed to help practitioners and parents create a developmentally appropriate, supportive and stimulating environment in which children can enjoy experimenting with and learning language.

Language development in children

We asked our resident Early Years Professional Laura Hathaway what her favourite activities to encourage talking were. Laura says these can be used in small groups or even just the two of you at home.

Recognising sounds

Place between four and six familiar noisy items (e.g. a set of keys, crisp packets, or a squeaky toy) into a something you can't see through like a box or paper bag, pausing to name each of them and demonstrate the sound each one makes.

Use your child's name and sing the following to the tune of 'Old MacDonald':

Laura Hathaway has a box ee I ee I o

And in that box she has a . . .

Stop singing and ask the children to listen.

Pick up one of the items in the bag and, while keeping it hidden, make the object make noise. Have the children guess what they think it is and continue the song but imitating the sound using your voice.

With a zzz zzz here and a zzz zzz there. . .

Allow the children to take a turn making a noise from inside the box and use their names as you sing.

Sounds in stories

When you're telling either a familiar story or making one up, have the children associate sounds with each of the Characters. You may need to ask questions to get them to come up with their own ideas. For example why not ask "How might Cinderella's broom sound when she's sweeping the floor? And what noise would the birds make while they help her make her dress?"

The children will become familiar with the story as you go along and you can assign different sounds to different children. You can add a twist by asking the children to make the noises in different conditions, i.e. How might Cinderella's broom sound if the floor was wet, or what would it sound like if her broom was made sticks?

Rhythms in songs

Children need to develop a wide repertoire of songs and rhymes.

Be sure to include multi-sensory experiences such as action songs in which the children have to add claps, knee pats and foot stamps or move in a particular way.

Add body percussion sounds to nursery rhymes, performing the sounds in time to the beat. Change the body sound with each musical phrase or sentence. Encourage the children to be attentive and to know when to add sounds, when to move, and when to be still.

Singing songs and action rhymes is a vital part of language development and should be an everyday event.

Awareness of rhyming

Use books with predictable rhymes that children are familiar with and then stop as you come to the final word in the rhyme (e.g its terribly kind of you, Fox, but no - I'm going to have lunch with a . . .). Invite children to complete it, and encourage them to use plenty of intonation and expression as the story rhyme is recounted.

Include rhyming books as part of the time you spend reading each day. Make sure you use plenty of intonation and expression so that the children tune into the rhythm of the language and the rhyming words. Encourage the children to join in with repetitive phrases such as Run, run as fast as you can, you can't catch me; I'm the Gingerbread Man. Wherever possible make the activity multi-sensory to intensify learning and enjoyment.

Look, listen and note how well the children:

  • Recognise rhyming words
  • Listen and attend to the rhyming strings.

Word sounds

Create a song, such as "What have we got in our sound box today?" and then show the objects one at a time. Emphasise the initial sound (i.e. s-s-s-snake, s-s-s-snake, s-s-s-sausage). Make collections of objects with names beginning with the same sound.

Look, listen and note how well children:

  • Can recall the list of objects beginning with the same sound
  • Can offer their own sets of objects and ideas to end the story
  • Discriminate between the sounds and match to the objects correctly.
 
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