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Communication is key

Learning to communicate is one of the major developmental tasks of early childhood. For young children communication development includes gaining the skills to understand and to express thoughts, feelings, and information, and it is the key to interacting with the people in their world and to having their needs met. Few tasks in early childhood are as important as this one!

Why is communication so important?

Understanding communication begins during pregnancy and continues throughout life, as a child hears, sees, and interprets information from other people. Having good communication and language skills helps your child to:

  • Make and Keep Friends Words and interaction skills help children engage socially, make friends and deal with disagreements

  • Enjoy Learning Learning is more enjoyable when children are able to understand words and effectively communicate themselves

  • Learn to Read Reading skills are closely linked to talking and understanding words

  • Have Good Mental Health Knowing words to describe and understand feelings, and express wants and needs gives children the emotional literacy to support their mental health.

All children are different and develop in their own way, at their own pace. If you are concerned that your child may not be showing expected development in communication, speech and language you could use this online progress checker and you can always talk to us at Wildlings if you ever have any concerns.

Our commitment to communication

At Wildlings we recognise the importance of creating a language and communication rich environment that all of our children can thrive in. We use various methods to support children to be able to understand and be understood, be this through language, visuals, British Sign Language or Makaton. Communication is encouraged by introducing new vocabulary as we play alongside the children, using positive language and focusing on each child’s strengths to help build self-esteem and a positive sense of identity. Effective communication also includes an awareness of when to step back and allow the child to independently explore, or when to give children time to think about and process what is being said and their response. An essential component for laying the foundations and providing each child with the essential experiences that they need is having a skilled and experienced team of practitioners who know each child and their needs well, and work alongside them as they play.

Developing communication and Language at Wildlings

We are committed to developing the skills and knowledge of our practitioners and this year much of our Continued Professional Development has had a focus on communication and language.

  • Two practitioners are currently completing the Early Years Professional Development Programme, which this term has focussed on encouraging communication and language development in the Early Years.

  • Two practitioners are in the middle of completing a year long speech therapist lead training programme by Elklan. This develops knowledge of communication and interaction skills, awareness of different areas of need, and training around practical approaches and strategies that meet the needs of children with communication and interaction needs. This training will then be cascaded down to all of our practitioners at Wildlings, resulting in us becoming a Confident Communicators Accredited setting.

  • One member of staff is completing her Early Years Initial Teacher Training, which will lead to us having three trained teachers in our team.

With all this training going on there has been a huge focus on Communication and language at Wildlings!

Giving communication and language development the best start

So how can you support your child's language and communication development?

There is s no need for special gadgets, toys or resources to help your child learn to communicate and understand words, YOU are the best tool!

Hooray for play!

Play is one of the most important ways that children learn about the world. When children play with another grown up or other children they learn how to problem solve, communicate and use language effectively. They are given the opportunity to recreate experiences, share ideas and the use of language will increase as children take on the role of someone else. So, simply by playing alongside your child and talking about what you're doing together, giving them choices and asking questions you will be doing the most important thing you can to help develop communication and language skills.

Make the most of your everyday routines
  • GETTING DRESSED You can help your child to understand nouns, for example by saying "Would you like the red top or the blue top?" "We need long sleeves to keep our arms warm". Using actions or pointing helps to communicate the meaning of the words.

  • EATING Use your senses to describe the food you are eating. Challenge yourself to see how many different words you can use with your child instead of "nice"

  • SHOPPING A great opportunity to develop your child's understanding of positional language. "Can you get some beans? They're next to the tomatoes" "The bananas are above the oranges"

Building your child's word bank in these ways helps to give them a great start.

Share books together

Looking at books together doesn't need to be just reading the words to your child in the right order. You can cuddle up together, talk about the pictures, guess what might happen next. With familiar stories, especially those with rhymes and repeated phrases, pause to allow your child to join in. Reading should involve a mixture of familiar and new stories. Don't forget, library membership is free, and a great way to access 100s of books.

Singing Songs and Rhymes

Singing together is a great way to bond with your child. The quality of your singing voice could not matter less to your child but by singing with them you will be building vocabulary and important language and numeracy skills as well as encouraging social, physical and emotional development too!

having fun together.

Dummy use

Studies have found that dummy use during the day affects speech sound development as children who use a dummy are less likely to babble and experiment with sounds. It is therefore a good idea to try to restrict dummy use to sleep times only. If you need some support to reduce daytime dummy use there's some great advice here

Screen Time

Try to keep screen time to small doses and something you do together as it has been found that screen time at a young age limits opportunities for children to develop their communication and language skills as well as impacting on their playtime and ability to be imaginative and creative. There's some great advice around screen time here

Chatting with your child

5 things you can do to encourage language development

  1. Comment Use simple clear language to describe what you and your child can see or are doing.

  2. Pause Give your child chance to speak by leaving longer pauses than might feel natural to you. The recommended length of time is around 10 seconds.

  3. Encourage It is easy as a parent to meet your child's needs without them having to communicate them but try to hold back to encourage them to use their skills to ask for things. For example if they have a bowl of cereal in front of them don't just give them the milk pause and wait for them to communicate, this may be by a look or a point for some children, for others it is about communicating in a whole sentence so "I would like the milk please" rather than simply "milk".

  4. Repeat Say what your child has said back to them modelling and correcting and errors positively. For example, if your child says "I putted it away" you can say, "You put it away! Thank you".

  5. Extend Add to what your child says to help build their word bank. For example, if your child says "Dog" you can say "Oh yes, there is a big, brown dog!"

  6. Take turns There are some great ideas for turn taking activities to support your child to develop their communication and language skills here

Talking and playing together with your child is the most important thing you can do to support all areas of their development, so chat away and have fun together!

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