Half-term Fun – Clothes Peg Games

Some fun indoor activities may be the order of the day for this half term as the weather is not so hot.

This is a very simple idea which children love because they can take greater ownership of it. The aim of the activity is to help build up hand and finger strength through using the pegs; however, it can have a dual purpose, helping to keep track of the week by using it as a timetable or for learning spellings or maths activities, as well as supporting the development of language skills.

You do not need anything fancy, just some string (for the washing line), clothes pegs and pieces of paper or card to peg onto the washing line. The washing line can be a permanent fixture or you can just pop it up when you need to use it.

The clothes line needs to be at a height suitable for your child to peg things on to (placed against a wall is a safe option so that no-one can walk into it by accident and hurt themselves).

There are a whole range of games that can be played using this simple washing line and pegs concept:

Memory games – Get your child to peg up 5 to 10 different pictures or items on the line. Then give them 1 minute to remember the items. Once the time is up ask them to look away, or close their eyes, and then you remove one or more of the items. Get them to look back at the line. Can they work out what is missing?

  • You could try just moving one or two of the items around. Can they figure out which ones are in the wrong place and put them back in their correct place?
  • Try swapping an item for something new, which your child did not hang up on the line. Can they work out which is the new item on the line?

Odd One Out – Hang pictures on the line that belong together. Can they pick out the odd item on the line and explain why it is the odd one out.

  • They could all be pictures of fruit with a picture of some clothing
  • They could be shapes with straight sides and one with curves
  • They could all be animals but all are wild with only one being domestic

Sorting – Ask your child to sort all the pictures or items from a selection and to hang all the identical things on the washing line. They could all be the same;

  • Colour
  • Shape
  • Type

Pattern Work – Using pictures, different colour and shaped paper or items create different patterns. The patterns can be based on colour, size or type of object. You can create a pattern sequence on the washing line and then ask your child to try and copy the sequence. Can they explain the pattern and create their own for you to copy and explain?

Pairing or What is the Same? – Hang a range of pictures or items on the line, making sure that some of the items can be paired together because they are exactly the same. They could match because;

  • They are exactly the same e.g., a pair of socks
  • Match numbers to a picture with the same number of items on
  • Match capital to lower-case letters

Or have items that can be put together because they are both from the same set, for example they are types of fruit or are the same

Developing #Listening & Speaking Skills – Games to Encourage Talking and Language Knowledge

Last week we explained the importance of developing your child’s word awareness skills here are some further games ideas to encourage them to use this new language.

  • Playing tapes or CDs of nursery rhymes and children’s song are good for helping your child to make the distinction between the music and words (language used) in them. It is a good idea to practise this skill when there are no other noise distractions.
  • When your child points at something tell them the name of the object, for example if they point at an apple, say “Apple”.
  • Try to use the new word in context regularly as repetition of the word will help your child to remember it and reinforce the meaning of the word.
  • Try playing some action songs and rhymes to help your child learn the actions for the rhyme, then let them have a go on their own. Watch them to see if they can do some of the actions at the right time in the song, to see if they are listening for the right cue words. If they are struggling, explain they have to wait for certain words and show them what to do and when to do it.
  • If they are trying to say a word, let them finish and then say it back to them clearly and correctly. Do not make them repeat it back to you, they may choose to do so but make it their choice.
  • Repeat and expand on what your child says, so if they say “Dog!” you may say “A big dog!” This also helps them to develop an understanding of sentence structure.
  • Finger rhymes, such as ‘Round and Round the Garden’, ‘Pat-a-cake’ and ‘Incy Wincey Spider’ and action songs encourage your child to interact with words, the sounds within them and the rhythms they create. ‘Row, Row Your Boat’ is a lovely whole body movement song that encourages a rhythmic whole-body motion, which babies and toddler enjoy (as well as the adults).
  • Sharing and talking about the books you are reading helps to build word knowledge, as you point to the pictures, picking out different objects.  Reading out aloud helps to introduce your child to words that they may not experience in their everyday talk. This helps to expose them to new vocabulary and the sounds to be found in those words.
  • Introducing and playing sorting games helps your child to build a mental filing cabinet system of categories, this helps them to remember and learn the meaning of words. Start by introducing simple categories of everyday items like food or clothes as their vocabulary increases categories such as colour, size and texture become more appropriate.

How to encourage your child to keep talking!

Learning to the conventions of conversation start from birth, as parents we do not really think about it in this way but it is what we tend to do naturally.

Sometime though we all need a few pointers to help us, so here are some ideas to help you develop and encourage your child to talking skills:

From Birth to 1 Years Old

  • To encourage cooing and babbling. Get yourselves comfortable in a face-to-face interaction position, babies often like lying on their back or on your lap looking up at you.
  • Start by talking to your child while gently tickling their tummy or neck.
  • Anytime they make a sound you imitate or match the sound as best you can. It is best to wait until they have finished before you try (one of the conventions of conversation).
  • Try changing or adding a new sound to the one your child has made, so if they say ‘ah’ you might say ‘ah-ooh’, this will help to keep the game interesting.
  • Show that you are excited by the sound they make – smile and laugh, if you are enjoying the interaction, they will be excited by it too.
  • Vocal play works best when it occurs naturally, such as playing with farm animals, for instance sheep go baa, baa or cows make a moo, moo sound.

1 to 2 Years Old

  • Talk directly to your baby/toddler so they can see your facial expressions and how your lips move, as this is the beginnings of learning the conventions of communicating, listening and responding (something they cannot get from the TV, iPad or overheard conversations – indirect talk).
  • Talk through everyday events, such as getting dressed; what is happening, where you are going and what the plan is for the day.
  • Use your body language, expressions and gestures to help reinforce and develop your child’s neurological pathways to support understanding and comprehension.
  • Share books with your baby/toddler, they may not understand what you are saying to begin with but they will be listening to the different sounds that the words make. By reading aloud you are probably using words that will introduce new sounds that your child may not be picking up from your normal day to day conversations. As they get older you are developing and increasing the range of their vocabulary.
  • Babies and young children love to hear you singing and saying rhymes, this is because the language is slowed down, allowing them to hear the small units of sounds and patterns which are often repeated several times in a short time lapse. Again, the language used is often different from your day-to-day talk.
  • To encourage and help your child to generate and play with sound, repeat the sounds that they make.
  • Using familiar objects and toys make the noises associated with them for example a toy car, broom, broom or a toy bumble bee buzz, buzz.
  • When you are out and about talk about what you can see and about the sounds they make, a cat goes meow or a train Choo, Choo, for example.
  • You can use other onomatopoeic words to describe sounds, such as wooden spoons on saucepans could be bang, bang or blocks being knocked together could be click, clack.

2 to 5 Years Old

  • When playing, talking and sharing new words it is important to get down to your child’s level so they can see your face and how your mouth and lips move to form the words or sounds being explored.
  • Remember toddlers learn to listen best when they are taking an active role in what they are doing, especially when you or others join in eagerly with them to play the games.
  • Give your child thinking and response time, this may seem like a long pause but it is worth waiting, be sure your child has finished what they wanted to say before you respond.
  • Try not to finish off your child’s sentence, yes sometimes it may be quicker but just give them a little moment longer and they will get there. If it is clear they cannot think of the word they want then that is of course different.
  • Before a child can really take part in meaningful interactions with others, they need to learn how to take turns. It is one of the basic elements of communication, when we are talking to someone, we leave a gap/pause so that the other person has the opportunity to respond, taking turns. Turn taking skills need to be modelled and taught to help your child develop and understand this element of communicating with others.
  • To encourage your child to keep talking try nodding, smiling and using comments such as; wow, really or acknowledging something they have said by repeating rather than always asking them questions.
  • We are all guilty of half-listening, especially when we are busy trying to cook dinner for example. If it is obvious that what your child wants to tell you is really important then make it clear that you are interested by saying “Just let me finish this and then I can listen to you more carefully.”

The Importance of Small Talk!

Don’t underestimate the importance of everyday chatter or conversation (‘Small Talk’), children develop and learn a great deal through ‘Small Talk’ with adults and other children.

What do we mean by ‘Small Talk’?

With babies it is the kind of talk that explains what we are doing, what they are doing, where we are going and what we can see.  As they get older our verbal exchanges increase as we support their receptive and expressive vocabulary development. Through these exchanges we also support their general language development and understanding of how words are pronounced, basic sentence structure and using the correct tense.

When we talk with a child we demonstrate and model the use of language in real time so that it has meaning. For instance, a child may point and say “cat” and we would respond with “Yes, the cat is sleeping.” Or we may correct the child and say “That is a dog.” If we could we would point to a cat and explain the difference. We also correct mispronunciation of words and correct tense issues in the same way; repeating the word or sentence using the correct pronunciation or tense back to the child.

The Communication Trust is now part of the I Can organisation and has a great range of information and guidance for parents and professionals: https://ican.org.uk/

Different Types of Talk

There are different types of talk:

  • Business Talk – this is when we use more everyday instructional and informational kinds of vocabulary and sentence structures.
  • Play Talk/Rich Talk – this is more conversational, informal and descriptive.
  • Small Talk – this is everyday chatter or conversations, informal and often less descriptive and more factual.
  • Parentese – this research has shown is how babies prefer you to talk to them using regular words (normal adult vocabulary) in a slightly higher pitched and more sing-song way.

It is important that a child is exposed to the different types of talk as it helps them to build their vocabulary (word awareness – receptive & expressive language) this is vital if they are to continue to develop good communication skills.

The Difference Between Receptive and Expressive Language

Receptive language is how we take in and understand language; it is what we hear, see and read. This also includes body language and environmental clues. All these elements help us to interpret a situation and give it its meaning, so that we can understand what is being communicated. We do not need to be able to produce language to receive and understand it, so infants and toddlers understand far more than they can express (expressive language).

Expressive language is our ability to put our thoughts, needs and wants into words and sentences in a way that makes sense and is grammatically correct. A baby’s expressive language to begin with is based on cries and gestures and then moves to sound making, gestures and body language signals. We use this expressive language when we speak and write. When babies and toddlers move to speaking words, they have a limited vocabulary which is why they can get frustrated when we do not understand them.

Good word awareness (receptive and expressive language) is a key pre- phonics skill.

Click the link for ‘Tips to Help Develop Word Awareness (Receptive & Expressive Language)’: https://www.teachphonics.co.uk/word-awareness.html

Developing a Child’s Speaking and Listening Skills is Vital!

It is not just the key to literacy success but an essential social communication skill.

Sadly, with the COVID-19 situation, schools are reporting ever increasing concerns over the decline in young children’s speaking and listening skills. So, over the next 14 weeks, we are looking again at the different developmental elements of speaking and listening; providing practical games and activities to help build a child’s skills. 

Week 1. Conversational Turn Taking Skills

Week 2. Different Types of Talk

Week 3. The Importance of Small Talk

Week 4. How to Encourage Your Child to Keep Talking

Week 5. What is Listening?

Week 6. Games to Develop Listening Skills – Sound Screen Games

Week 7. Games to Develop Listening Skills – Sound Scanning Games

Week 8. Games to develop Listening Skills – Music Fun

Week 9. Games to develop Listening Skills – Phonemic Awareness

Week 10.  Word Awareness

Week 11. Activities to Develop Talking & Language Skills

Week 12. Activities to Develop Rhyme & Alliteration

Week 13. Activities to Develop Syllable Awareness

Week 14. Activities to Develop Directional and Positional Language

#Christmas Fun to Develop Vocabulary Skills

Learning new words (vocabulary) and their meaning begins with earlier play opportunities. Activities, that use play-dough type modelling materials, are great for developing the language knowledge relating to touch, texture, actions and instructional language. Words such as: cold, warm, soft, hard, smooth, rough, gritty, roll, squeeze, squash and pull.

An added benefit to these types of activities is that they also support your child in developing their hand and finger strength, bilateral coordination, sensory perception and for learning and perfecting different grips for using tools.

Salt Dough

So, why not make some great salt dough Christmas gifts and tree decorations with your child. Not only will they melt the hearts of those who receive them but you will be developing your child’s fine motor skills (needed for good handwriting) while having fun; can’t be bad!

For a salt dough recipe that I have found good to use with children go to our ‘More fun handwriting activities’ page (https://teachhandwriting.co.uk/more-activities.html ) in the Parent section of our Teach Handwriting website ( https://teachhandwriting.co.uk/ ) and just download the ‘Salt Dough Modelling’ pdf.

#Christmas Finger Printing a Fun Way to Support Language Development

Hand and finger printing can be a fun way of getting your child used to touching, using different textured mediums and descriptive language associated with it. Such as: slimy, smooth, slippery, squidgy, wet, dry, squelch, ooze, press, push down, harder, softer, gentle, lift, light and dark.

Printing activities also help your child to start to become aware of how to control the amount of pressure they use and to develop a vocabulary to describe the different range of pressures required. Learning to control the amount of pressure exerted and how it feels can be very difficult for some children and it takes time and a range of experiences to develop these skills.

There are some fabulous printing ideas out on the internet; one of my favourite art resources is The Usborne Art Idea Books. Hand and finger printing can create some amazing artwork which can be used to make wonderful personalised Christmas cards, tags and paper.

Who could not be charmed by these fun thumb and fingertip snowmen or robins or delighted by a hand print angel or Father Christmas?

For other useful tips on printing and setting up a printing work station, check out our ‘More fun handwriting activities’ in our Parents section of our teachhandwriting.co.uk website under Learning Through Play: https://teachhandwriting.co.uk/more-activities.html

Summer Fun – Get Cooking!

Cooking is a great fun way to practise getting both hands to work together. This helps to develop coordination, hand and finger strength and dexterity skills; all skills required for handwriting. However, it is amazing how much talk can come from this as well; not just at the time with you but when they share the day’s experience with others later on (developing their phonological awareness).

An added benefit at this time of year is that you can do ‘Pick Your Own’. Getting out and about and encouraging your child to pick their own fruit is not only great fun but another sneaky way of working on their hand and finger strength and dexterity.

There are so many recipes, especially online, for making quick easy great tasting food (make a large batch and freeze the rest).

So, if the sun is shining, or it is just not raining, get out there find your local ‘Pick Your Own’ or check out the bargains at your local shops/market and get cooking!

Word Play – Syllable Awareness & Counting

At about the age of 4 years old children start to develop an understanding that words can be split into sound parts (syllables) and that these parts give the word its rhythm.  A syllable is the largest phonological unit (one or a group of sounds) of a word and is like the rhythmic beat of the word.

They should be able to orally blend syllables together to form words and segment words into syllables.

A fun activity to help develop syllable understanding:

How Many Syllables?    

Children love to clap out the number of syllables in a word. It is important to say the word at a normal speed rather than really slowly as this can distort the word and make it difficult to hear the syllables. To start with a child just needs to be able to recognize them by clapping, stamping or jumping for each syllable of a word; they don’t need to be able to count them. It is thought that only about 50% of children can count out the syllables by the age of 4, so you can do the counting for them.

Spoken syllables are organised around the vowel sounds, making counting them easy; as the jaw drops when the vowel sound is spoken in the syllable. Try placing your hand under your jaw with your mouth closed before you say a word. Start with ‘cat’ you will notice the jaw drops once, this is because it is a one syllable (monosyllabic) word.

Most children will find it easier to identify syllables in compound words to start with. A compound word is formed by two words (root words) put together such as: sunset, hotdog, snowman and postman. They find it easier because the jaw tends to drop quite distinctly as we say the vowel sound in each of the root words and because we tend to say these words slowly.