As early years practitioners we have knowledge and information to share with parents about children's speech and language development. We can raise awareness of the importance of early language and how children develop these skills and also how families can help though sharing this information.
However, finding the right resources to do this can be time consuming and challenging, so I CAN have created a range of resources for early years practitioners to both share with parents and also support their own practice. Toddler Talk, for example, gives ideas for communication focused games that can support early years practitioners' planning and provision, as well as giving families ideas for activities at home.
I CAN's 'Getting 2 year olds talking' bundle includes:
- An 'Ages and Stages' poster for you to share information with parents as a display (and as a reminder for us!)
- Top Techniques posters which gives top tips for supporting children's language development
- Talk Together leaflets which give an overview of how children's talking develops and how to help. These are available in a range of languages.
- First words posters so that parents can see what happens at each stage
- A progress check pad to support monitoring and tracking how children are developing and to help you complete your 2 – 3 year old check
- Toddler Talk and Ready, Steady, Talk activity packs with lots of ideas of games to play to help language development
- Chatter Matters - I CAN's DVD that talks parents through what to expect at each stage and how to help.
As many of these resources were used as part of the Early Language Development Programme (ELDP) they have been tried and tested by a range of early years practitioners. The key impacts of the ELDP on parents include:
- Increased confidence in supporting their child’s speech, language and communication
- Improved confidence to use language in play
- Greater awareness of age appropriate language abilities
- Wider understanding of ways to aid their child’s language development
- A means of introducing other initiatives and key messages regarding child development.
One practitioner reported how “parents have commented on how useful and easy the resources are to use to explain the importance of early language development.” It was felt to be particularly valuable that resources are aimed at parents, impacting not only directly on parents (by communicating key messages clearly and easily), but also indirectly in ‘equipping’ local practitioners so that their interactions with parents are improved.
“When you talk to parents obviously the last thing they want to hear is that there is something wrong with their child, and using those tools enables me to have those conversations without it seeming like I’m being judgemental.”
We’ve been told by both parents and practitioners that I CAN's Chatter Matters DVD, from the toolkit, has been beneficial.
A Parent's Story
One parent recently contacted I CAN Help for information and support for their child's talking. This was what they said about Chatter Matters:
“After watching the DVD I found it to be very useful and backed up what the boys’ speech therapist has been teaching them, plus contained lots more useful information for parents dealing with speech and language problems within their own families. It goes through how to speak to children on their level from birth onwards, how to use every day activities such as shopping and turn it into a fun learning exercise.”
A practitioner's story
“I had a child that was struggling in speech and language, so I lent the Chatter Matters DVD to the parents and the feedback we had was really positive. These parents hadn’t previously understood the importance of getting down to their child’s level and talking to them, so they found it really helpful. Because of that DVD and the leaflet we gave them they’ve been working really well with us, and now that child has come on really well – his speech has come, his understanding is getting there. I personally think it was all because they got the resources to help them.”
The survey points to parents and carers wanting and needing more information about communication and their children's development. As early years practitioners who have good relationships with parents and children we are ideally placed to share information and work together to support children's language development.
Amanda Baxter is a speech and language therapist who specialises in working with early years practitioners and families with young children. As a Communication Advisor for I CAN, she delivers training to early years professionals and supports them to develop their practice. She also works on I CAN’s Enquiry Service providing information, advice and support for practitioners and parents. Amanda has worked in children's centres and as a Local Authority Early Language Consultant.