One of the biggest factors impacting your child’s ability to progress at school is their language. If they can’t understand what is being said or articulate their own thoughts, then school can be a confusing and isolating place.
In a recent speech by Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, he highlighted the need for children to develop good language skills “because when you’re behind from the start you rarely catch up”. Worryingly, the Department for Education’s statistics show than nearly a third of four- and five-year-olds are lacking the language skills to describe simple events or even just to speak in sentences.
Here are some ideas you can fit into your busy family lives in order to do this.
Building a love of stories, books and reading are key to developing a child’s vocabulary. Reading to your child will expose them to lots of new words. Get them to describe what is happening in the pictures to get them talking too. It’s a great idea for them to see you reading too, as your child looks up to you and will copy what you do.
Don’t be scared of using challenging language
Children learn from what is being said around them. If you model using a variety of language then your child will learn more and start to use different words. Use more challenging words and then explain what they mean to increase their vocabulary.
Join the library
Books can be expensive, and it may take time to find the types of stories that engage your child. So join the library and tap into this free goldmine of books. Libraries often run music classes or story time sessions which a free or low cost. These are great ways to excite your child and build their language skills.
Label your house
With your child, label items around the house so they can learn lots of new words. Write the word and get your child to trace over it or copy it if they are able to. They can also draw pictures on the labels to help them to remember the word.
Technology can have fantastic benefits if you use it in the right way. Harness your child’s love of screen time to help increase their literacy skills.
· Oxford Owls website has a series of free e-books for three- to 11-year-olds, some of which you can listen to as well as read. There’s also lots of helpful resources you can use at home.
· Listen to audio books and use time when you’re travelling in the car or getting ready to go out to listen to stories. Then talk to your child about the story. Audio books are also great for reluctant readers as they are still being introduced to lots of new language.
· Access Apps can help you help your child. Try Pirate Phonics, Hairy Letters and Reading Eggs to get started.
· Get Snapping when you are out and about let your child take some photos to make a picture diary. Then when you get home look through the photos and get them to describe what you did. You can also turn your adventures into a book. Book Creator allows you to make 40 e-books of your own for free.
Talking with you child is key to building language skills. In our busy lives it can be easy to focus on just getting everything done by bedtime, but carving out time to speak as a family is so important. Whether it’s whilst sitting round the dinner table, on the journey home from school or just for a few minutes before they go to bed - have a chat. For some children it’s hard to get anything out of them, with “fine” or “ok” being the standard answers. Try a few open questions to get them expanding their answers like “what was the best thing about your day?” Or “Tell me about what you did at nursery”.