Early Years Practitioners

Early Years Practitioners


As an Early Years Practitioner you play a vital role in the speech and language development of the children in your setting. Below you will find a range of tools and resources to help support your work in the Early Years.  



The Environment


Providing a communication supportive environment lays the foundations for supporting children’s speech, language and communication development in your setting. This means ensuring your interactions with children are as effective as they can be (and supportive of communication development) and that the environment is set up to facilitate communication and language learning opportunities. 

Here are our favourite Communication Supportive Tips for Early Years Practitioners:

Gain attention & make eye contact
Young children are still learning to control and switch their attention from what they are doing or playing with to listening to adults. To give them the best chance of understanding you and to make sure you know they are listening, gain their attention first. Simply calling their name or using a gentle touch prompt so they look at you and waiting for them to respond is all that is needed.
Comment on what they are doing
Commenting on a child’s play or actions is a really helpful way of giving them the language that eventually they will use. Make sure your language is matched to the child’s developmental stage, so short and simple if talking to a baby or toddler with increasing length and complexity as children get older. Also consider the concepts and question words you use as they are still learning these.
Listen to what they are saying not how they are saying it
It is not uncommon for young children to have unclear speech. For some children, it takes the first 5-6 years of life for them to master all of their speech sounds. The said, some children speak clearly from the word go so it can be confusing for parents and practitioners to know what is typical development. As a rule of thumb, if a child is younger than three then providing their main carer(s) can understand them then the chances are their sounds will develop naturally over time. If you are at all concerned then seek further advice. In the meantime, try to focus on WHAT they are communicating to you rather than HOW they are saying it and encourage children to ‘show you’ or use gestures if you’re not getting it. Avoid asking them to breakdown words or repeat sounds in an attempt to get them to speak more clearly as this is largely unhelpful.
Allow time to respond
Young children need more time than adults and older children to respond to our questions and take turns in a conversation. This is because there is a lot going on for children. They need time to breakdown what we’ve said, process and understand it and then if they choose to respond they need to think of what they want to say, find the words, put them in a sentence and coordinate everything to produce the right sounds – it’s a wonder any of us manage to speak so effortlessly! Make sure you give children lots of time and to help you remember to do this we use the hands rule. Once you’ve asked your question, count the fingers (and thumbs) on your hands silently and by this time you are likely to have had a response from the child (if they wish to respond that is!).
Choose the best questions
Not all questions are born equal and some questions, particularly if asked of a child too frequently, can be unhelpful and make the child feel tested and under pressure. Some questions can be really helpful for language development however as they open up a space for curiosity, imagination and ideas. Open ended questions are great for this but be sure to allow the child plenty of time to respond. We also love the ‘I wonder…’ comment (e.g. ‘I wonder what that is…’ or ‘I wonder what they would do next….’). If a child is very young or struggling with language development then questions that offer a choice are incredibly helpful for giving them the language they need to answer (e.g. ‘did you play with cars or bricks today?’). 
Repeat back and expand
This is a really useful strategy for really young children. By simply repeating back what they have said you are giving value to their communication and encouraging them to try more of the same. By adding another word or two to their sentence when you repeat it back you are giving them the words to grow their sentences when they are ready.
Use a range of expressions
By using a lively and animated communication style you will be instantly more interesting to children. By supporting your communication with gesture, body language and facial expressions you are giving the children extra clues to help them to understand what you are saying and also demonstrating the importance of non-verbal communication.
Multi sensory language learning
By adding different sensory layers to learning new aspect of language you are giving children other channels by which to store their learning. For example, if you are exploring the language of prepositions then moving physically to be ‘in’, ‘on’ or ‘under’ something will help children to make stronger memories of these concept words. Alternatively, exploring exotic fruit with touch and taste whilst learning the new vocabulary will mean they will be able to pull on these memories too when trying to recall the words.
Praise & respond to communication efforts
Young children need to be reassured that all attempts at communication are welcome and encouraged to continue to experiment with words and sounds. Even if a child pronounces something wrong or says the wrong word they’ve been bold enough to have a go at something they are only in the early stages of learning so should be praised for their efforts.


To help you to create a Communication Friendly Environment in your setting, we’ve created a checklist for early years settings here:

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Knowledge & Skills


All those who work with young children should be alert to emerging difficulties and respond early. SEND Code of Practice, 2014

To help you to fulfil your responsibilities as Early Years Practitioners, we’ve put together a range of materials including short videos, podcasts and articles to help you to learn more about supporting the speech, language and communication development of children in your setting.

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Learning Zone



Activities & Games


Here you will find a range of activities to help support children’s early communication skills which you to recreate in your setting and share with parents.


Image Text: Baby Activities

Baby Activities

Explore our games and activities for supporting babies early communication skills
Image Text: Toddler Activities

Toddler Activities

Help build on toddlers' understanding and use of vocabulary with our fun activities
Image Text: Preschooler Activities

Preschooler Activities

Help preschool children expand their sentences and get school ready


Virtual Consulations & Downloadable Resources


Looking for something more structured?

We offer virtual consultations to early years settings to anonymously discuss support for children in your setting. We can then provide you with an action plan to help you support their speech, language and communication development. We also have a growing library of games, resources and visual aids to support communication in a more structured way in our Shop and freebies section.  

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