New films to help nurture children's speech and language

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The Communication Trust has created a series of films highlighting how young children learn to speak, listen and interact with their parents or carers.

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The four films, which focus on how children aged age 0 to six months, six to 12 months, one to two and two to three years-old learn to communicate, have been commissioned by Jean Gross, formerly the Government’s Communication Champion for Children, as a legacy of last year’s Hello campaign that marked the national year of communication.

Shot from the point of view of the child, actress and director Kathy Burke provides a humorous voiceover, highlighting what children respond to and struggle with.

Each film ends with ‘take-home’ messages for parents. For example, in the one to two-year-old film, the key messages prompt parents to read books to their children in quiet places, remind them to keep distractions to a minimum as too much background noise can affect children’s concentration, and not to ask children too many questions because they need time to think about their answer.

A series of factsheets around the key messages have also been created, along with a guidance documents for early years practitioners on how to make best use of the films.

Jean Gross said, ‘Children don’t come with an instruction manual. Our work last year showed that parents want and need more information on how their child learns to speak, listen and make themselves understood. These films show in a fun and practical way what children need from the adults around them to get the best start in life.

‘A message we often gave parents during the National Year of Communication was that for your child, you are the best toy in the box. That’s the message of these films too. Life in the 21st century brings with it all sorts of challenges, and people are very busy, but we hope that by highlighting, from the child’s perspective, certain truths, that parents will feel informed and confident that they are able to nurture their child’s good communication by using ordinary everyday activities.'

Anne Fox, director of The Communication Trust, said, ‘The Trust hopes these films become a key tool for early years practitioners to use as they bring to life so well a child's journey to make themselves understood. These films are a welcome addition to our portfolio of information and resources and we are calling on others to embed these films into their work so we can share them with the largest possible audience.

‘Health visitors, nursery workers and Sure Start Children’s Centre staff all play a key role in supporting parents, particularly first time parents, to nurture their child's speech and language skills. Language and communication development remains little understood by many parents and professionals.

‘If parents are empowered with information and knowledge, they are best placed to support these vital skills, spot when their child is struggling and know where to go for help and support. This knowledge also enables professionals to support parents, particularly when specialist support is needed to meet a child's needs.’

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