Communication and language activity ideas as part of the revised EYFS framework
There’s no question that interconnectedness will continue to play a vital role in child development. That’s why we were pleased to see it highlighted as a key area in the EYFS reforms that officially come into force from September 1.
If the last 18 months have taught us anything, it’s how important it is to maintain consistency in how we all help early years children to build communication confidence, develop a social skill set that fosters positive relationships, and utilise language so they begin to understand their emotions and feelings on a much deeper level – all of which can support them in their learning journeys.
As the framework states: “the number and quality of the conversations they [early years children] have with adults and peers throughout the day in a language-rich environment is crucial.”
There are plenty of ways in which practitioners can focus on communication specifically. For example:
- Commenting on what children are interested in or doing, and echoing back what they say with new vocabulary added
- Reading frequently to children and engaging them actively in stories, non-fiction, rhymes, and poems. Also, providing them with opportunities to use new words in a range of contexts
- Encouraging storytelling and role play where they feel comfortable to share ideas with you, and even making mistakes on purpose so they can correct you
- Using sensitive questioning which invites them to elaborate and tap into a rich level of language structures.
All the above will help towards children achieving early learning goals such as listening attentively – and responding with relevant questions – joining in small group interactions confidently, offering their own ideas, expressing their feelings about experiences using past, present, and future tenses, and more.
As you continue in your EYFS reforms preparation, and beyond, we’ve pulled together some activity ideas to further develop communication and language skills, that you might want to use in your setting:
- Play games which involve listening for a signal
Birth to 5 Matters recommends starting a game of ‘Simon Says’ or something with a ‘Ready, steady, go!’ beginning – such as a race to build or knock down a block tower. By doing this, you’re also able to step into the role play and can help children to concentrate, wait, react when required, and support them throughout the completion of the activity.
- Make a post box
Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust’s ‘Having Fun With Language’ pack recommends creating a post box and then getting children to put the correct pictures inside it. For example, in response to ‘where’s the apple?’, the child would pick this photo up and pop it in the post.
As language progresses, you should use more complex sentences such as ‘the girl running’ and the children find the relevant image. It could then move into the territory of ‘what are they doing in this picture?’ to invite more depth to a child’s answer.
- Planting seeds in the vegetable garden
Not only will this help children to begin to understand more about their environment and where food comes from, but if this activity is done in groups, it can build team communication and leadership skills. You could assign different jobs to each child – for example, one digs, one puts in the seeds, the other waters the soil – and encourages them to communicate with one another throughout.
You could even keep a diary – or use a whiteboard/display – and get children to select different words to describe their garden’s progress. For example, what the weather is like, what day of the week it is, how they feel that day, and so on.
- Playing ‘pairs’ or a memory game
Using picture cards or items with hand-written letters/numbers/words on them – such as paper plates – place them face down and get children to find matching pairs. This will not only help them to retain information and focus their attention, they’ll also get into the rhythm of when to take their turn, and can even invite their teammate to have the next go.
As language progresses, we’d recommend you introduce longer words or pictures that – when they get a matching pair – the child has to describe in a bit more detail.
It’s important not to bombard children with questions as you explore ways in which to bolster their communication and language skills. Instead, it’s better to invite and encourage meaningful interactions through play, so it supports their development and keeps them engaged.
Make sure you adapt each of the activities above to ensure they’re accessible, too. For example, if you introduce touch and taste elements to these ideas we’ve suggested, they can support children of all learning abilities.
We have several ways and plenty of guidance to help you as you plan in line with the EYFS framework.
For more on our Communication and Language series, head here:
- 5 Ways to Support Children’s Communication & Language – From Childminder, Chloe Webster.
- Communication and Language in the Early Years