This guest blog has been written by Zoe Fenlon, who is passionate about helping little ones with their confidence and early communication skills.
Zoe runs Talking Tots in both Chelmsford and Maldon and Colchester. She left her career in Forensic Science when she had her own children and found this new opportunity and has completely fallen in love with it.
The Talking Tots unique programme was developed with the help of a team of early years experts, including teachers, educational psychologists and fellow speech and language therapists.
Did you know 1 in 10 children have a speech or language delay? Talking Tots has been designed to support all children and their friendly class leaders will help every child to settle in and have lots of fun in their classes.
Zoe shares her expert knowledge by giving us 13 tips on how we can boost communication with our own babies at home.
1. When talking to your child get down to their level and get their attention by encouraging eye contact before speaking. Eye contact is a vital skill in the development of language. Always reward ‘good looking’ with lots of smiles and praise.
2. Build vocabulary by narrating your day. ‘It’s time to get dressed’, ‘What a big tower you’ve built’. Give a running commentary … talk about what you and your child are doing. Keep your language simple yet grammatically correct and remember repetition is key.
Exposing children to a variety or sounds and words will not only introduce them to the idea of language but get them excited to join in!
3. Allow opportunities for your child to communicate by using every opportunity to ask questions with options rather than those requiring a nod or shake of the head! Offer choices throughout the day, for example, "Do you want juice or milk?" Keep the choices limited (either this or that) to avoid over confusion.
4. Listen and enjoy sounds around you. Name sounds for your child (e.g. phone ringing, wind blowing, water running, police sirens) Have fun making sounds together. Copy sounds … such as animal sounds ("moo", "miaow", "quack," "woof" & "baa").
5. Read to your child from an early age and look through picture books together. Use lots of repetition. Give your theatrical skills a full airing – make silly sound effects and create funny voices for the characters. When your child sees that language and words are fun, they’re more likely to join in themselves and try out new words.
6. If your child attempts a word but gets it wrong or mispronounces it … adopt a good model approach … say the word back to them correctly, slowly and clearly. They will soon get the idea!
7. Make sure if you ask your child a question, you leave time for him to respond. He might not speak, but those little babbles, giggles and noises are your child’s way of joining in the conversation!
8. Model active listening. When your child speaks give them your full attention and show them that you’ve heard and understood by repeating their words back to them and building on what they’ve said by adding one or two more words. If your child says ‘look, car’ you can reply with ‘look, red car’. They will feel valued which will encourage them to keep talking and you’re modelling the next stage of language development.
9. Sing songs and rhymes with your child, especially those with fun noises and actions. Encouraging them to join in will develop vocabulary and memory.
10. Encourage your child to get involved in household chores. As you sort the laundry, talk about colours and shapes. In the kitchen, let children help with weighing ingredients, or mixing foods together. As you tidy up, suggest they find the red toys while you put away the yellow toys.
11. PLAY. Simple toys such a bubbles and puppets are brilliant games to encourage copying, eye contact, following simple instructions and introducing lots of fun new words. Challenge your toddler to count blocks when you build towers, or steps as you go upstairs. Playing “I Spy” is a great way of introducing phonics to young children. Imaginative play is a great way for older toddlers to practice their conversation skills – most three-year-olds love bossing their toys around!
12. Avoid overly using ‘baby talk’ and / or made up words. Of course, using silly voices and funny words is great fun, which is important, but children need to be taught the appropriate words – toes not little piggies for example.
13. Give your child your time. Give them time with your total attention and focus. Enjoy spending that time with just your child – no distractions, no phones etc, just quality time. Quality is important not quantity. We are all short on time but 5 mins of play or narrating through feeding or bath time or a bedtime story are invaluable. Take the time in any and every way you can.
Most of all have fun!!
Learning is fun and children learn best when they’re having fun.
Finding learning fun is a lifelong gift we can give our children.
If you would like more information on early communication skills you can get in touch with Zoe on her instagram page: Talking Tots Chelmsford (@talkingtotschelmsfordandmaldon) • Instagram photos and videos
And if you would love to find out more about these fabulous fun Talking Tots classes, click this link: www.talkingtots.info