Many parents would admit to nervously awaiting milestone moments in their child’s development and the delight of hearing their first words and first sentences is definitely priceless.

But if you are growing worried that your child may have a smaller vocabulary than other children their age, talks less or you simply want to be doing everything in your power to give them the best start in reception class, please read on.

Good to talk
Experts stress the importance of ‘news casting’ to babies and young children. The act of describing what is happening around them during the day as it happens is said to help expand their vocabulary and encourage speech – for example: “look at the cat in the garden. It’s laying in the sunshine taking a nap.”

Families are encouraged to chat and read at every opportunity possible. For example, reading out the signs you see when you visit the swimming pool or naming the fruits and vegetables you see at the supermarket.

Need support?
Some parents might lack confidence themselves when it comes to communication and finding ways to weave it into everyday activities. Help is available for parents from websites such as Small Talk from the National Literacy Trust and Hungry Little Minds from the Department of Education.

Reading books together
Literacy organisations encourage every parent to make reading part of everyday life (if it already isn’t) and to take books a step further by stopping to ask your child questions as you read through the story. Stop as you read through their favourite tale to ask questions like: “What could the character do next?,” “Do you like this part of the story?”, “What could have happened instead?”

Early years communication
It’s believed that around 7 per cent of children around five years of age have speech, language and communication needs and that children who struggle with language suffer in terms of mood, emotions and have social challenges. Vocabulary difficulties at age five have also been said to be linked with poor literacy, mental health and employment in adult life.

A speech and language therapist should be able to offer reassurances and practical tips by asking your GP, district nurse, health visitor, your child’s nursery staff or teacher for a referral. Some areas operate on a self-referral basis.

Parents can visit Hungry Little Minds for in-depth tips and practical advice – at https://hungrylittleminds.campaign.gov.uk/

The NSPCC has advice on making communication commonplace for babies and toddlers, at –
https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/keeping-children-safe/look-say-sing-play/

Should you want advice on finding a speech and language therapist, the RCSLT has information, at – https://www.rcslt.org/speech-and-language-therapy#section-4

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