It may seem obvious, but the best way to improve a child’s language and communication is to have interesting and enjoyable conversations with them. Questions, answering and discussing all lead to an increase in vocabulary and understanding. A large percentage of language a child hears directed to her or him is directive – i.e. do this, come here, let’s go etc. Children need to be immersed in conversational language to best develop.
The Every Child A Talker (ECAT) project is designed to help nurseries devise developmentally appropriate support and stimulating environments in which children can enjoy experimenting with language.
As well as talking expressively to children as a matter of routine in the setting, the Early Year’s Practitioner should be encouraging parents to do the same at home.
Why do we need to focus on language development?
Language forms the foundations for interacting with other people. From birth, babies can communicate; even the youngest infants need a stimulating environment and carers who respond sensitively to their early communication. This early ability to communicate verbally and non-verbally is the basis on which language is developed. The ability to develop language to an appropriate level, depends on the child being immersed in an environment rich in sounds, rhythm, verbal and non-verbal expression. They need quiet areas to think and practice speech, they need an adult who can support them emotionally and intellectually as they explore.
Many children start school without the extended vocabulary so important for learning and making friends. As these children grow older this can lead to significant difficulties in reading, writing and social skills.
The Every Child A Talker (ECAT) project is intended to support nursery staff and parents to help children, so if there are any difficulties they may be prevented, or picked up at an early enough stage to allow children to access the support they need.
Collingham Gardens Nursery has support from an ECAT language consultant, and training and materials are being provided. Nurseries taking part in the scheme will meet to share best practice, to audit provision (part of which will identify areas where language is being used extensively and areas where it is not), and to evaluate and draw up new plans for ensuring that all children receive an appropriate curriculum in the area of communication.
The nursery has close links with Hunter St speech therapy clinic, and Thomas Coram Music therapy. We have used these services over the years to support many of our children with diverse special needs.