Speech & Language: A Practical Guide

Speech & Language: A Practical Guide

Speech & Language are hugely important development areas in young children, and it’s often a discussion that many parents will have with childcare professionals and health visitors.

There is a lot of information that can often be confusing for families to get to grips with. With that in mind, we have put together a practical guide to understanding more about Speech & Language and how you can support this as a parent.

In this post, we’ll be looking at how concerns around Speech & Language are increasing, some practical steps you can take to support your child’s development, as well as other tools and sources of help you can explore.

Increased Concerns in Speech & Language Development

There has been an increased concern about the number of children starting school with poor speech and communication skills. These concerns can often present themselves around the age of 2 years, with the impact still being seen as children start their reception year at primary school.

The statistics around the impact of poor outcomes in Children’s Speech & Language on their long-term attainment include:

  • 1 in 4 children who struggled with language at the age of 5 did not reach the expected standard in English at the end of primary school, compared with 1 in 25 children (at the age of 5) who had good language skills.
  • 15% of pupils with identified Speech, Language, and Communication Needs (SLCN) achieved the expected standards of reading, writing and mathematics at the end of their primary school years compared with 61% of all pupils.
  • Only 20.3% of pupils with SLCN gained a grade of 4/C or above in English and Maths at GCSE compared with 63.9% of all pupils.

Best Start in Speech, Language and Communication (2023)

Not all SLCNs are preventable; some children will have persistent language and communication needs that require continued support throughout their school lives. 

Understanding the importance of early communication on long-term outcomes will help parents/carers find the best ways to support their children at home through straightforward and easy-to-implement strategies.

Early Communication

Exposing children to a vocabulary-rich environment is vitally important for children from birth. With readily available distractions such as TVs and iPads, children spend less time speaking or listening to adults than ever. This, in turn, reduces the amount of spoken words children are exposed to.

Outlined below are several important activities that can be used to support language development in young children. These will not only reinforce their spoken vocabulary but also help support their understanding of language in context and support the foundations needed to read and write. 


Narration should start as soon as babies are born. As parents/carers, we often speak to babies about what may be coming next, e.g. “Mummy is getting your bottle”. While we know babies cannot use spoken language, we understand that this narration from a young age gives babies the security that someone is there for them.

As children grow, this narration can be used to support language development. For example, commenting or describing what children are doing as they do it or repeating phrases and extending these by one or two words can help children use language in the proper context.


Stories are a fantastic way of exposing children to language whilst providing them with something they enjoy. In addition, regular reading will lead to your child having favourite books that they will often choose again and again.

Books such as Dear Zoo and The Gingerbread Man, with a theme of repetition, are particularly helpful. Eventually, with further exposure, children may feel confident to join in as they become familiar with the repetitive aspects of a story.


Singing to children is also a fantastic way of supporting language development. As with books, many familiar nursery rhymes have easy-to-learn words that will repeat several times throughout the song. This helps children feel confident to join in. Where children cannot sing the spoken words, joining in through actions is also the foundation for language development.

Props and Puppets

Bringing stories and songs to life for young children is a great way to make a song or a story more interesting. This promotes imaginative play and supports the storytelling aspects that form the foundations for later language development.

Supportive Resources

As a parent/carer, you may have noticed that your child is presenting some concerns relating to SLCN and is not meeting their developmental milestones; however, if your child attends a day
nursery, the professionals working with your child may be the first to notice any concerns relating to Speech, Language and Communication Needs.

This may also be noticed by your visit to the Health Visit during your child’s two-year development check.

Understandably, any concerns can cause worry and upset, and this is a normal feeling for a parent/carer who is presented with this information. That said, you should always consider the support that can be put in place to help your child now that concerns have been raised.

There are several resources available to parents. However, the following website has several supportive resources for parents who may have concerns or need further support:

They have a progress checker that asks you several questions about your child’s progress in Speech and Language, depending on their age.

We hope you found this blog useful! If you have any further questions or would like to learn more, please speak to a member of our team anytime.

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