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Making talk and play part of your child's everyday life

A new campaign is launching to help parents across Norfolk help their children develop vital language and speech skills so they are better prepared when they start school

Norfolk County Council and NHS partners have launched new resources and a digital campaign aimed at encouraging parents to make talking and learning a regular part of all the activities they do with their babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers. 

Families can take up the 9 day challenge, access resources online at www.norfolk.gov.uk/talkandplay, or take a quiz to discover how they can learn together.  Parents are encouraged to attend parent and baby sessions online whilst national restrictions are in place to continue with interaction and provide extra opportunities for growing and learning.

Online sessions are hosted by different services within Children’s services, such as Norfolk Libraries “Bounce and Rhyme” Sessions and various activities run by the Early Childhood and Family Service.  There are also specific speech and language themed events being run in March with access to experts from East Coast Community Health (ECCH). 

Cllr John Fisher, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said “These resources are a great support for parents of young children, to help them encourage their child’s speech and language development. Early language development is such an important process, and we want to support and empower parents across the county to help their children develop well.

“Whether it’s mealtime, play time or bath time, whether you’re walking the dog, feeding the cat, travelling or even doing those boring household chores.  Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, you can make Talk and Play part of your daily life together.”

National statistics shows that on average 12% of children starting primary school had language delay, with fears that number will have increased due to the pandemic.  It has also been shown that children with poor early language at age five are four times more likely to struggle with reading at age eleven. The benefits of building speech and language skills are widespread, improving brain development and communication with adults and other children. 

Eileen, SENCO teacher at Mile Cross Primary School, said “We know how important good speech, language and communication are for success in school; they don’t just underpin all learning but are fundamental to play, friendships and emotional regulation.  Making time to talk and play in the early years will support children to become confident and competent communicators and develop the skills they need for the best possible start to school.”

The campaign is a collaboration between Norfolk County Council, NHS Norfolk Children and Young People’s Health Services and East Coast Community Healthcare (ECCH) who are commissioned to provide speech and language support for children in Norfolk.

Cllr Bill Borrett, Cabinet Member for Public Health, said “This campaign and the resources that go with it are a great tool to help parents set their children on the right path in their first few years. Speech and language development is such a key foundation for every child, the coronavirus pandemic has made this more challenging for parents and limiting opportunities for young children. I think these resources are incredibly timely and I hope will prove a great help to parents across Norfolk.

Pamela Singh, Specialist Practitioner for NHS Norfolk Children and Young People’s Health Services said “Parents and carers of babies and young children are the most important teachers. Learning to communicate together is fun and families should choose activities that they like and be led by their child’s play.  The skills they teach their child through talk and play will not only help in the early days, but will have a lasting effect throughout their life. 

Claire Taylor, ECCH’s Children’s Speech and Language Therapy Team Manager, said: ““Simple things make a huge difference - spending time with your child or children, following their lead and joining in with what they are interested in.  This campaign aims to support parents and carers to make these small changes and provides resources to help.  And if we support our children to develop their communication skills from day one, it has a broader effect too – it really helps with their general development, with building relationships and interacting with others.”

Families looking for NHS information or advice should visit JustOneNorfolk.nhs.uk or call 0300 300 0123.

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