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Resources and activities to support children’s language development

Two toddlers sitting in the park playing

Early years settings and staff are crucial in supporting children to develop good speech, language and communication skills.  The best way to do this, is to ensure your setting is providing a ‘communication rich’ environment where:

  • Staff understand how speech, language and communication skills develop in young children

  • Staff recognise if a child’s language skills are delayed or they are having difficulty

  • Staff maximise all opportunities for high quality adult / child interaction during play

  • Talking with, and listening to, all children is valued

  • Opportunities are planned and created to support communication throughout the day

  • Parents are included and valued and staff share information and ideas to further support their parenting

  • The physical environment supports communication, such as noise levels, layout and visual cues

Local information and support

Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust’s Children’s Speech and Language Therapy Resources has an extensive range of free materials you can use with children, along with a series of useful films covering a number of topics, such as speech sounds and barrier activities.

Herefordshire Council provides useful information and a range of resources to support children with speech, language and communication difficulties, such as the helpful Play and Say Listening Pack, which offers ideas for small group work to develop attention, listening and early vocabulary.

National information and support

AFASIC provides a range of training materials and free downloads for professionals working with children with speech, language and communication needs.

BBC Tiny Happy People offers a wide range of tips, advice, activities and play ideas to help develop children's communication skills.

The Early Years Alliance offer a communication friendly environment audit, which can be used to reflect on aspects of your setting and the practitioner’s role within it.

Elizabeth Jarman offers information, advice, training, articles and case studies to help develop effective learning environments.

Elklan Training provides an accredited Communication Friendly Setting programme, which trains early years staff in communication and language development and helps build communication capacity within the setting.

Every Child a Talker: Guidance for early language lead practitioners is a national government programme, designed to help practitioners create appropriate, supportive and stimulating environments, where children enjoy experimenting with and learning language.

Hungry Little Minds, which was launched by the Department for Education in 2019, offers lots of simple ideas and activities parents can do to support their child’s early learning and development from birth to five years old.

I CAN offers an Early Talk 0 - 5 training programme for early years staff, in partnership with parents, to support the communication needs of children from birth to five years old.

The Government’s Inclusion Development Programme offers guidance for practitioners to help support children with speech, language and communication needs and although it was first published in 2008, it’s still a very useful resource.

National Deaf Children’s Society offers a fantastic range of advice, information and resources to help you support language and communication.

The National Literacy Trust offers a range of resources and training for early years staff practitioners to help support children’s development from birth to five years old.

The NSPCC Look, Say, Sing, Play resource, which is primarily designed to support parents, provides fun and easy daily activities, which not only help with bonding, but also with building children’s brains.

Stoke Speaks Out is an online hub for speech, language and communication activities and offers a range of helpful resources, a number of which are free to download.

Talking Point provides a series of factsheets, which list useful techniques that can be used on a daily basis with pre-school and school aged children, such as creating a communication supportive environment, developing vocabulary and how to use scaffolding.

Words for Life, is primarily aimed at parents, but has a range of helpful tips and activities, which are equally useful for practitioners.

Number 4: Good practice

In a nursery with a comfortable book area, staff noticed that children weren't making much use of the books.  The books were stored in a large box bookcase, but as there were a lot of books, it wasn’t possible to see the front covers clearly.  This meant children often found it difficult to make choices. 

Books stored in a large wooden box    Books stored in a small wooden box

The books were re-organised using small shelves and baskets, which enabled staff to clearly display the front covers of the books.  This meant children not only made deliberate choices from the books available, but also used the book area more often.

The inclusion of some related props for favourite stories, also encouraged children to talk about the books, which improved concentration.  The provision of a special dinosaur book basket, further supported the interest of a child with autism, who was delighted and able to share his enthusiasm with other children.

Books and toys displayed on a large wooden bookcase    Books displayed in a small basket

Number 4: Great idea

Practise commenting…

Mia (2.6 years old) was in the pre-school garden, when she saw a digger.  She held up her hand so an adult would stop and they waited while she observed carefully.  When she said “dig dig”, the adult responded by saying “it is a digger, it’s a big, yellow digger”.  Mia then pointed to the tyres and said “going”, so again, the adult built on what she had said by adding “the tyres go round and round.  They make the digger go”.

When the digger began scooping soil, Mia moved her arm and her eyes followed the movement of the scoop.  The adult commented “the big scoop is going up.  It’s full of soil, it’s full of mud”.

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