How to Encourage Speech and Language Development

August 20, 2019

We know that early verbal communication with children is vital – it helps prepare them for social interactions, promoting both their self-esteem and mental health, and knowing more words encourages confidence and a sense of assurance. The new Ofsted Inspection Handbook for Early Years, due in September 2019, will be honing in on this important aspect of child development so that children are not only better prepared for primary school, but also for experience in later life – such as exams and employment.

Within the Early Years Foundation Stage framework, the early learning goal of Speaking states that children should have achieved the below by the time they finish the Foundation Stage:

‘Children express themselves effectively, showing awareness of listeners’ needs. They use past, present and future forms accurately when talking about events that have happened or are to happen in the future. They develop their own narratives and explanations by connecting ideas or events.’

So how do we encourage this? By being good role models, providing stimulating activities and through play!

1. Good role models

  • Speak clearly and calmly
  • Use age-appropriate language
  • Make eye contact (get down to the child’s level if necessary)
  • Repeat sentences back to children, replacing mistakes with corrections
  • Repeat sentences back to children, expanding on the words they’ve used
  • Describe and comment on what you’re doing
  • Describe and comment on what the children are doing
  • Label objects and actions
  • Listen carefully when the children are talking to you – be patient and give them plenty of time to find their words

2. Providing stimulating activities

We consistently reflect on our practice within the nursery and consider continuous improvement to be central to what we do – and that includes the activities we have on offer. If we notice, through observation and assessment, that we aren’t promoting communication friendly spaces and activities, we can use this to plan new opportunities that introduce new vocabulary and opportunities for discussion.

3. Play

We all know how much children love to play, but most importantly we also know how much they learn through play! Role play and imaginative activities offer the opportunity to introduce new words and vocabulary, as well as the opportunity to play socially with other children. Guessing and describing games offer children the time to think and use descriptive language. Reading books together is also a natural way to talk and discuss, highlighting words that may be unknown and exploring what things mean. The more that adults communicate with children during play, the more opportunities there are for development.

These are all things you can do at home too! Try using this month to consider how you communicate with your child and use some of our tips to help provide that firm foundation and make sense of the world around them