ECaT- Every child a Talker
What is ECaT:
Every Child a Talker (ECaT) is a national project to develop the language and communication of children from birth to five years of age. The project was set up after concern about the high levels of ‘language impoverishment’ in the UK, and how this affects children’s progress in school and chances in life.
ECaT encourages the development of early language through everyday fun and interesting activities which reflect children’s interests and enable them to become confident and skilled communicators.
The main aims of ECaT are:
- To support the identification of children 'at risk' of language communication delay and to support them as early as possible.
- To improve the knowledge and skills of people working with young children.
- To help parents to understand how communication develops and to provide them with the ideas to support its development.
The four main areas of ECaT are broken down into:
- Listening and attention
- Social communication
These are the areas that we assess and track each child’s communication and language development throughout the year and each term the assessments are placed on the ECaT tracking grid. Every parent or carer is allowed to, have regular access to their child’s tracker and if you would like to discuss anything with the child’s key person at any time then please do not hesitate to have a chat with us.
Here is a link for the ECaT child monitoring tool we use to track children’s communication and language progress:
Why is it so important to focus on language development?
Language is important because it forms the foundations for interacting with other people – for communicating our needs, our thoughts and our experiences. From the moment of birth, babies are ready to communicate: they listen to and look at people and things in their environment and respond to what they hear and see. Even the youngest babies need a stimulating environment in which those who care for them respond sensitively to the different meanings of their cries, coos and gestures. This early ability to communicate verbally and non-verbally is the basis on which language is developed. A child’s ability to develop language depends on being immersed in a rich environment of words, sounds, rhythm, and verbal and non-verbal expression from birth. However, we know that there are still many children starting school without the extended vocabulary and communication abilities which are so important for learning and for making friends. Disadvantaged children are especially prone to language delay, some having only a third of the vocabulary of other children. As children grow older, this early delay can lead to significant difficulties later on, particularly with reading and writing. ECaT is intended to help you give the right support to children from their earliest days so that if there are any difficulties they may be prevented from occurring in the first place or picked up early so that children are given the help that they need.
ECaT – Ten top tips for talking:
Want to get your children talking? ECaT (Every Child A Talker) have 10 top tips to help support and develop your child’s communication:
Get the child’s attention first – get down to the child’s level and engage their attention before speaking or asking a question. Young children find it difficult to listen and carry on with an activity at the same time. Saying their name first encourages them to stop and listen.
Use simple repetitive language – describe your everyday activities. As you talk about what you are doing (‘I’m washing the cup.’), repeat your words slowly and clearly.
Build on what the child says to you – talking very clearly, add one or two more words to the child’s sentence. For instance, if the child says ‘look, car’, you could say ‘look, red car’.
Imitate the child’s language – with very young children, simply imitate their words and sentences. This will show them that you are valuing their words and will encourage them to keep talking.
Rather than criticise, demonstrate the right way – if a child makes an error in a word or sentence, simply say the correct version rather than pointing out the mistake. For example, if the child says, ‘I goed to the park’, you might say ‘Wow, so you went to the park’.
Give the child time to respond – children often need time to put their thoughts together before answering, so give them longer to respond than you would with an adult. Make sure to maintain eye contact as you wait for them to complete their remark.
Use all the senses to help teach new words – for example, if you’re teaching the names of fruits, encourage the child to feel and smell the various fruits as they learn the words. Another idea is to use familiar songs and rhymes as a learning tool by missing out words for the child to fill in.
Make learning language fun – play around with words, sound and sentences and don’t be afraid to talk in funny voices or have daft conversations. The more children see you experimenting with language, the more likely they’ll be able to do it themselves.
Be careful with questions – try not to ask too many questions, especially ones that sound like you’re constantly testing the child. The best questions are those that challenge the child to think rather than give an instant answer.
Use the full range of expression – speak in a lively, animated voice and use gestures and facial expressions to back up your words. You’ll be giving more clues about what your words mean, which can be very useful if the child is struggling to understand language and be demonstrating the importance of nonverbal communication.