Helping your child to learn: communication and language. A guide for parents.

Communication and Language is probably the most important aspect of learning in early years. More often than not, when a child struggles in their first year at school it is partly or wholly because they struggle to listen to, understand or express themselves. Here are some ideas to do at home to develop listening and attention in young (and older) children. If English is not your main or only language do not feel like you have to use it for school. Research shows if children are fluent in their home language and have a good understanding of its structure, they will use the skills to relate to any other language they require during the school years.

Talk with your child as much as you can starting from the day they were born. Show them how to be a good listener in the way that you respond to them when talked to.

Share rhymes, songs, books and stories. Talk about what is happening in the stories or rhymes. Such a familiar rhyme or book, stop suddenly and ask your child to continue, or accidentally get the words wrong - children love to correct you!

Play games which require listening skills. The most popular ones are "Simon Says...", "I Spy...", "I Went to Market" or you can make your own.

Listen for sounds. When you are out and about, stop and listen with your child. What can you hear? The ruffle of the leaves, rain drops, bee buzzing or people talking.

Rhyme with your child. Help your child hear and recognise rhyming words - an essential step in reading as well. When you hear a word, say lots of rhymes for it, so example.

Plan and discuss. When starting something new, such as getting out the paints to make a picture or going on a trip to the supermarket, help your child to talk about the steps that you will need to take and the order they will come in.

Correct by repeating the idea without mistakes. If your child gets a word wrong, or has a problem with certain sounds, don't tell them they are wrong. Instead, repeat their sentence back to them correctly. E.g. "I no want peas'l. "You don't want peas. How about carrots instead?"

Play pretend games. Role playing is an excellent way to teach life situations to your child. You can do this simply by playing shops , dressing up or playing alongside your child as she builds a model or constructs a train track. Ask questions, encourage the to talk about what is happening and do not be shy to use funny voices as a shopkeeper or a granny.

Sit down as a family and eat a meal every day. It's not not always possible with the busy lives we all have but mealtime is a great time to talk about the day, find out if there are any problems and encourage your child to talk and listen.

Don't be afraid to use "difficult word”. When talking to your children, don’t just say “this peas are yummy”, Say something like “they are yummy and delicious!”. “ Big Bad Wolf wasn’t just angry with the Three Little Pigs. He was angry and furious!” This will enrich your child’s vocabulary and promote them asking questions about the meaning of the words.