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Sing away the January blues with Chatterbox Challenge

Feeling flat after Christmas? (That's flat, not the other mince pie related one!)  Hopefully your voices have all been warmed up by some resounding choruses of Jingle Bells and Auld Lang Syne, and now you're looking for your next singing challenge, right? We have the perfect focus for you - I CAN's Chatterbox Challenge.

What is Chatterbox Challenge?

Chatterbox Challenge is an annual event run by I CAN to promote awareness of how vital communication skills are for all children. It is an opportunity to have fun with songs, rhymes and games to practise some of those vital skills, and enables all children to get involved, whether they are joining in with songs, using actions, signs or taking part in activities. The theme for 2016, Ben & Holly’s Elf and Fairy Party, gives young children lots of opportunities for role play, to play games while chatting about what they are doing, seeing and hearing.  An Elf and Fairy Party - what could be more motivating to talk about?

Chatterbox Challenge week takes place from 8th-14th February and the free activity pack is downloadable here. It’s full of ideas for planning and running your very own Elf and Fairy Party. The activity pack signposts to the area of the EYFS each activity links to, to help you build it into your planning. There are activities supporting the prime areas of Communication and PSED - attention and listening, understanding, speaking, and early literacy skills. There are also links to children's knowledge and understanding of the world. The activities can be adapted so that all children can take part.

How can Chatterbox Challenge support children?

Last time we looked at how children learn new and unfamiliar songs, and recall songs that are sung infrequently. Chatterbox Challenge takes the opposite approach! The songs are well known so that all children can join in - either by singing or doing actions and signs. Chatterbox Challenge helps children’s communication skills in the following ways: 

Supporting storytelling skills

The characters, Ben and Holly, may be familiar to the children and this can support children's storytelling skills through:

Knowing about characters - children who are at the stage of understanding 'who' in a story can relate to characters in books and television programmes; this is one of the stepping stones to developing early literacy skills. The building blocks for telling stories are being able to identify who is in the story (the characters), what they are doing (the action), where they are - where the narrative is set (the location, where) and then the later skills of talking about time (when).  

Additionally, active storytelling supports children's imaginative play and role play. By having an Elf and Fairy party, children can join in the action and be part of the story. You can also use it as the basis for making lots of different stories involving the same characters.

Planning your Elf and Fairy Party also supports children’s problem solving, creative and sequencing skills. Together you can think about things like - where are you going to have your party? Who will you invite? What will you wear? Should you have a special snack? There is an activity called 'Let's get ready for our party' that helps children to plan and put activities in the order they will happen. This helps them to sequence their ideas, also a valuable skill for storytelling as well as a tool for thinking.

Supporting attention and listening

Activities such as 'Musical Bumps with Nanny Plum' and the 'Noisy Stop and Go' game help children to develop these skills  as they have to listen to know when to stop and go - which can be difficult with so much going on!

Partnership with parents

There are letters and invitations to the Fairy and Elf party included in the Chatterbox Challenge pack. You can involve children in sending these out and developing those important early literacy skills.

Next steps: Sign up for Chatterbox Challenge 2016, download your free activity pack and get counting down for your big day!

Sign up for free

Chatterbox Challenge is a fun event for adults and staff. The event can also be an opportunity for your own professional development; after all planning, organising and hosting an event requires a good skill mix, and leading the singing needs the skills of an entertainer and leadership abilities.

So, come on, join in! You’ll raise some funds to support children with speech, language and communication needs and support the language and early literacy skills of children in your setting at the same time. 

About the author

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. 

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