Whether you are a parent, grandparent, carer or an Early Years practitioner, there are times when everyone feels the need for some guidance and support. In this section you will find the answers to some common questions, concerns and information about where to get more advice and information.
Coventry Early Years TeamAddress: PO Box 15
Will watching television affect my child's language development?
Just like adults, children can find watching television relaxing, especially when they are tired or stressed. Television can be beneficial when used for short spells, but too much can be harmful, so it's important to find the right balance.
Try and stick to these guidelines:
- Try to limit your child's viewing to no more than an hour a day for 3 to 5 year olds and half an hour for under 3s.
- Watch with them if you can and talk about what you see.
- Always turn off when no one is watching as background noise may make it more difficult for your child to develop good listening skills.
- You may find this https://literacytrust.org.uk/research-services/research-reports/television-and-early-language-development-2004/ useful.
Is it alright to give my baby a dummy?
Babies like to suck, so dummies can help soothe at bedtime or when your baby is tired or cross. However constant use can hinder the development of important language skills like babbling and can discourage older children from talking.
Keep in mind the following advice
- If you choose to use a dummy, wait until breastfeeding is well established (at up to about 4 weeks old).
- Stop giving a dummy to your baby to go to sleep between 6 and 12 months.
- Don’t force your baby to take a dummy or put it back in if your baby spits it out. Don’t use a neck cord.
- Don’t put anything sweet on the dummy, and don’t offer during awake time.
- Using an orthodontic dummy is best as it adapts to your baby’s mouth shape.
- If you choose to use a dummy make sure it is part of your baby’s regular sleep routine.
My child is shy. The Nursery staff say she hardly talks at all, although she chatters away at home
Some children can be shy and find social interaction difficult with people they don't know well. You can help by giving your child plenty of practice in talking to family members.
Use some of the following tips
- Build self-esteem. Praise and encourage her, especially when she is trying something new, acting independently or playing sociably with a friend.
- If she finds it difficult to manage new situations, give her plenty of preparation by reading books about children in a similar situation.
- Don't get into the habit of speaking for your child. Encourage her to ask for things herself in shops. Act as an interpreter if she finds other people hard to understand.
- Don't tell everyone that "she's just shy" - it reinforces the idea.
- If your child has realised that she can have a considerable effect on others by not speaking, try not to overreact or become exasperated.
No one outside the family can understand my child's speech
Children's speech becomes clearer the more they practice and the more they are talked to, so try to make time to talk every day. For children under two, it is better if you simply model sentences correctly and encourage your child to listen rather than trying to make him say words properly.
Use these simple tips to help develop clearer speech
- Give him plenty of time to say what he wants to say and give him your full attention.
- Let him know that you understand him by repeating back what he says and modelling the correct way of saying it
- Help his listening by getting his attention before you speak, you can do this by using your child's name before asking them to complete an action e.g. 'Ben, it's time to put your coat on'
- Read stories and sing songs and rhymes that draw his attention to listening to sounds.
- Try not to keep asking him to repeat what he has said as he won't understand.
- Try not to copy his speech or laugh at him, or allow other family members to tease him.
My 3 year old doesn't listen. When I ask her to do something she ignores me
Background noise can make it difficult for young children to "tune in" to language, so turn the television and radio off when no one is listening.
Follow the following tips to encourage good listening skills
- Get her attention before you speak by saying her name and making eye contact
- Use short sentences and give just one instruction at a time
- Encourage her when she does listen with comments like 'good listening'
- Listen for sounds together when you are out and about or in different rooms in the house
- Play games that focus on listening such as Sound Lotto or 'I hear with my little ear something that sounds like...'.
- Give her your full attention when she talks to you
- If you continue to be concerned ask your health visitor or doctor to test her hearing as she may have glue ear. which can dull sounds. This is a very common condition especially in winter or after a spell of coughs and colds.
My child only uses single words to communicate. How can I encourage her to link words together to make small phrases?
You can help develop your child's use of language by using the “Match + 1 strategy
Children learn by copying the language they hear. They need good examples to copy so that they can make their own sentences longer. With Match +1 you simply add a word to what your child has said.
For example: your child is playing with a ball;
Child says, “Ball”; you say, “Big ball”.
Child says, “Big ball”; you say, “Big, Red ball”.
Don’t worry if they don’t repeat it straight away, they will do so when they are ready. So keep using match +1.
My three year old gets really frustrated when we play together and he ends up throwing things at me
A successful way of playing with young children is to start by making sure they feel in control of the game i.e. you let your son lead the play by letting him choose what to play with and what to do with it. You don't make any suggestions, ask any questions, give any praise or correct anything i.e. you follow all his ideas without being tempted to give him all your ideas or directions.
This idea is taking a non-directive approach to your play with your three year old and in this way your son has control of the play which decreases frustration, and you are supplying useful language learning opportunities through giving language input relevant to the focus of his attention.
In practice the approach incorporates the following:
- While he is playing you comment on what he is doing e.g. 'You are building' or...'You've got the blue train'.
- Try to leave pauses in between your sentences so that he can talk too.
- Only comment on what you are sure about.
- If he invites you to join in just copy his ideas and if you can't understand his spoken ideas you could prompt him to show you.
I’ve been advised to use gestures and signs with my two and half year old. Won’t this make him lazy and less able to talk?
When adults are talking they often use gestures and this helps others to understand what is being said. The ability to gesture usually comes before the ability to talk and so a very young child can wave bye-bye before they can say the words.
Gestures are therefore a necessary part of a child’s language development and an important stage to go through before being able to speak. Generally we should accept all forms of communication from a child both verbal (sounds, words and sentences) and non-verbal ( eye-contact, gestures, signs and body language).
Gestures and signs do not replace the child’s need to talk, but it can reduce frustration, enable parents to know what their child means before he can say the words and helps children to understand what adults are saying, by providing two channels of communication for the child to use.
My child sometimes says words incorrectly. Should I correct them or ignore it?
Children will often make mistakes with their words when they are learning to talk. If it was pointed out every time that they were saying it wrong, the child could become reluctant to try new words and have reduced self esteem.
Simply repeat the word back to them correctly so that they can hear how it should be said.
Child: "goggy" Adult: "Yes, there's a doggy you're right!" This not only rewards them for their attempt at saying the correct word, but also allows them to hear the sounds said correctly so that they can learn how it should be said in a positive way.
My child only points to things, he doesn`t ever ask for things by name. What should I do?
When your child requests something by pointing, pick up the object plus something else and offer your child a choice of the two, telling him what they are.
For example if your child requests a biscuit by pointing at a packet of biscuits, pick up the biscuits and an apple and ask 'Do you want a biscuit or an apple?'
If your child still points to the one he wants and doesn`t use any words, label it again saying 'oh you want the biscuit!'
Why is it good to be bi-lingual?
Advantages of being bi-lingual:
- Twice the enjoyment of reading, able to enjoy books from both countries, and understanding the different traditions.
- Access to two cultures, folk stories, history and music etc.
- A greater tolerance of different cultures.
- Better at IQ tests, school curriculum and other tests.
- Able to think more flexibly e.g. words in different languages may have different meanings.
- Being more sensitive to the needs of listeners as they have to know what language to use with which people in which situation.
- Having a head start in reading as less fixed on word sound and more centred on word meaning.
- Raises self esteem.
- Strong sense of identity. Language is a strong link between people, giving them a sense of belonging.
- Easier to learn further languages.
- Wider choice of jobs e.g. tourism and translation.
How can we support a child from another country who has just joined our setting?
Children who are learning more than one language are not necessarily going to be slower at learning to talk. However, some children have a period when they don't talk in a new place (such as nursery) especially if languages they don't know are spoken there.
You can help these children by:
- Give the child time to settle
- Talk to the parents
- Find out some daily words in the child's first language
- Use objects or pictures or symbols