Why you need to talk to your child – even before they’re born

Making a toilet roll rocket or dried pasta jewellery, or hunting for conkers are among activities you can do with your child at home to improve their speech, language and communication skills ready for school. ​​​​​​​

A project is being piloted in North Yorkshire to get everyone involved in improving children’s early language development. Grow and Learn is taking place in East Whitby and Ryedale over the next year and will involve a range of initiatives by the County Council and its partners in health and early years provisions such as nurseries, baby and toddler groups and other organisations.

It will also involve training volunteers to become Literacy Champions and deliver literacy activities in their local communities. Some of the champions so far include a kickboxing trainer and a manager in Scarborough hospital’s special care baby unit, who is giving books to parents to read to their premature babies while they are cared for on the unit.

The message of the Grow and Learn project is it’s never too early to start talking, singing and reading to babies and that singing nursery rhymes and other songs, chatting and reading to children away from the distractions of television and phones are key ways of developing their early language.

We have put together a list of suggestions on the Grown and Learn webpage for free activities which you can do at home with your baby or young child over the coming months. They include an autumn scavenger hunt looking for fir cones and conkers, making decorations using our no salt dough recipe, building an indoor den or finger painting using our easy recipe for washable finger paints.

“These don’t have to be done at a set time – they can be done any time to fit in with daily living,” said Ruth Little, who has been appointed School Readiness Co-ordinator. 

“Chatting with children on the way to nursery, or while making a meal or playing ‘I spy’ on the bus or in the car, sharing a picture book, singing to your bump in ante-natal classes – all contribute to a child’s language development. It’s never too early to start and can involve the whole community and wider family networks.”

The county council is to use a tried and tested common assessment approach so that health and early years’ partners as well as community volunteer groups can recognise speech and language delay in children’s earliest months and years and build in support. 

Children who have under-developed language and communication skills when they start school can become frustrated and quickly fall behind their peers. Evidence shows this early disadvantage can stay with them throughout their education and they can have poorer life chances.

Find ideas on fun, free activities which can be done at home to help get children school ready.

Also look out for the Grow and Learn North Yorkshire County Council social media campaign.