Make time to listen to your child talking – as you meet them from their setting or school, as you walk, or travel home by car, in the supermarket as you shop, at meal times, bath times, bedtimes – anytime!
Switch off the TV, radio and mobile phones – and really listen!
Show that you are interested in what they are talking about – look at your child, smile, nod your head, ask a question or make a response to show that you really have been listening.
Make a collection of different toy creatures – e.g. a duck, a snake, an alien – say the sound it might make as you play together, e.g. ‘quack-quack’, ‘ssssssss’, ‘yuk-yuk’, and encourage your child to copy you.
Listen at home – switch off the TV and listen to the sounds both inside and outside the home. Can your child tell you what they heard, in the order in which they heard it?
Play-a-tune – and follow me! Make or buy some simple shakers, drums and beaters – play a simple tune and ask your child to copy. Have fun!
Use puppets and toys to make up stories or retell known ones. Record your child telling the story and play it back to them.
The importance of speech sounds
As children grow older they begin to understand more about the sounds of our language and they are able to join in with rhymes, songs and stories by clapping, stamping and skipping. This is an important stage as the children’s ears are learning to tune into all the different sounds around them. Playing with sounds and tuning your child’s ears into sounds will develop phonological awareness that is the ability to discriminate different sounds. Over time this will help your child develop an understanding that words are made up of different sounds (phonemes) and they will be able to hear the different sounds in a word. Gradually they will learn to match sounds to letters (graphemes). This is phonic knowledge. They use this knowledge when they are reading and writing.
This is a very is supportive activity to play with your child.
Try breaking down simple words when you are giving instructions or asking questions such as
‘Can you find your h-a-t hat?’ ‘Where is the c-a-t cat?’ ‘Sit on the s-ea-t seat’ ‘Eat your f-oo-d food’. It is really important to say the sounds (phonemes) aloud, in order, all through the word. Prior to this your child should have experienced lots of the environmental, instrumental and body percussion, rhythm and rhyming, alliteration, and voice sounds activities to tune in their ears.
Go on a listening walk – when walking down the road make a point of listening to different sounds: cars revving, people talking, birds singing, dogs barking. When you get home try and remember all the sounds you heard. You could try taping the sounds to listen to again or try reproducing them yourselves using your voice or instruments.
Make sounds using a range of props such as running a stick along a fence and tapping on the bin lid.
Make your own musical instruments using cardboard rolls, tins, dried peas, beans, stones. Shake these loudly, softly, as you are marching, skipping or stomping. Play ‘guess what’s inside the instrument’.
Sing known songs loudly and then softly, stretch words in known songs and add new words or sounds.
Listen to a range of music with your child from rap to classical. Encourage your child to move in response to the variety of musical styles and moods.
Learn some action rhymes such as ‘wind the bobbin up’.
Play some commercially produced tapes and CDs. Clap along with familiar rhymes and learn new ones.
Listen to the sounds your feet make when walking/running/skipping: slowly, softly, fast, stomping hard, in flip flops, boots, and high heels.
Try different types of claps: clap your hands softly, fast and make a pattern for your child to follow. Do the same clapping your thighs or stomping with your feet. Tap your fingers. Click your tongue.
Ways you can support your children at home: rhythm and rhyme:
Get into the rhythm of our language: bounce your child on your knee to the rhythm of a song or nursery rhyme, march or clap to a chant or poem.
Help your child move to the rhythm of a song or rhyme.
Read or say poems, songs, nursery songs and rhyming stories as often as you can, try to use gestures, tap regular beats and pauses to emphasise the rhythm of the piece.
Add percussion to mark the beats using your hands, feet or instruments.
Alliteration is a lot of fun to play around with. Your child’s name can be a good place to start, e.g. Say ‘Gurpreet gets the giggles’, ‘Milo makes music’, ‘Naheema’s nose’, ‘Carl caught a cat’, ‘Jolly Jessie jumped’, ‘Tina is talking’. Encourage other family members to have a go, e.g. ‘Mummy munches muffins’, ‘Daddy is doing the dishes’.
Emphasise alliteration in songs and stories, e.g. ‘Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers’.
Play around with familiar songs to emphasise alliteration such as ‘Old MacDonald had some sheep, shoes, shorts, with a sh sh here and a sh sh there’. Identify the odd one out, e.g. cat, cup, boy, car.
Make up little nonsense stories together using lots of alliteration.
Collect items from the park, the garden and around the house that start with the same sound.
When shopping think about items you are buying and say ‘A tall tin of tomatoes’, ‘A lovely little lemon’. Encourage your child to do the same.
Repeat your infant’s vocalisations.
Make fun noises or nonsense words.
Say words in different ways (fast, slowly, high, low, using a funny voice). ‘Sing’ known songs using only sounds, e.g. ‘la, la, la’, and ask your child to guess the song.
Vary your tempo and pitch when reading stories.
Make voices for characters when reading stories.
Read or tell sound stories. The local library or book store will be able to point out some very good books that encourage sound making as you read the story. This is huge fun and can involve all the family.
This is all oral (spoken). Your child will not be expected to match the letter to the sound at this stage. The emphasis is on helping children to hear the separate sounds in words and to create spoken sounds.
Oral blending and segmenting is a later skill that will be important when it comes time to read and write. Being able to hear the separate sounds within a word and then blend them back to understand that word is really important.
Blending is a vital skill for reading. The separate sounds (phonemes) of the word are spoken aloud, in order, all through the word. For example, the adult would say c-a-t = cat.
Segmenting is a vital skill for spelling. The whole word is spoken aloud, and then broken up into its separate sounds (phonemes) in order, all through the word. For example, the adult would say cat = c-a-t.