Top tips for using tablets

Dot Reeves
Friday, February 20, 2015

Dot Reeves, chief speech and language therapist at Insane Logic, explores how tablets can be used by early years practitioners in settings to support children’s speech and language and their ability to learn and join in.

Owning and using a tablet computer or device is now unremarkable in today’s society. But put one in the hands of a child and people have widely varying opinions. More and more parents are buying tablets for their children, but there are concerns that tablets are hindering children’s development.

But tablets can develop and improve a child’s speech and language skills, and particularly support those with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN)? It is estimated that 41 per cent of people in the UK are regularly using a tablet and according to adults who own one, and have children, 57 per cent of them using the tablet computer for educational purposes[1].


Make technology work hard for you

  • Engage staff by scheduling a regular ‘app chat’ slot in your team meetings. Ask members of staff to demonstrate apps to their colleagues.
  • Map out how individual apps could enhance learning. What language and guidance could the adult provide to support learning? What contribution could the app make towards achieving Early Learning Goals?
  • Help your children to talk about the specific activity they want to do on the tablet, using it as an opportunity for them to choose and explore.
  • Try a grid based vocabulary app where children can quickly group together key words that reinforce early years themes. 
  • A tablet is as worthwhile as the learning experiences you load onto it. Take the same amount of care in stocking your tablets with quality resources as you would when choosing books or toys. Be sure to delete those you find ineffective.
  • Use an app with speech output so children can explore how words work together to make early sentences.

Access some surprising benefits

  • The language used to support a child using a tablet can be a powerful and motivating learning opportunity in its own right! To talk about how we ‘tap’, ‘press’, ‘swipe’, ‘wait’, ‘look’ and ‘listen’ in a context which demonstrates the meanings of the words is a fantastic language comprehension workout.
  • It is amazing how quickly children understand the need for gentle hands and careful feet when tablets are being used.
  • Use a grid based vocabulary app at story time as a way of enabling children with speech and language difficulties to show what they understood and liked best. 
  • Tablets can boost your digital communication with parents and carers by making taking and emailing photos really easy. Integrate this into your routine and you will help your children to talk about what they have been doing as well as giving parents and carers opportunities to discuss activities at home. (Remember not to share images of children.)
  • Help children with SLCN to remember available options (for example, deciding the next animal when singing about Old MacDonald) by using a grid based vocabulary app. 

See how tablets and apps magically engage children

  • The interactive nature of tablets and apps engages nearly all children. Expect children to clamour for ‘a go’!
  • The in-built structure of apps which can be tapped to reveal the next picture can be exploited as a way of helping children build up their capacity to stay alongside an adult, hearing and learning from how pictures are named and described.
  • There is nothing more motivating for some children than watching movie clips, or perusing digital photo collections where they and their friends are the stars. Often children who struggle to get going with words and sentences will be highly motivated and more able comment within this sort of context. 


  • Insane Logic is an award -winning Social Enterprise dedicated to helping people learn to communicate. Its MyChoicePad is a language development platform for mobile tablets using symbols and signs to reinforce language.

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