Talk & Play

Younger Children (5-11 Years)

As children grow they start to become more confident communicators who are able to be understood and understand others. Children still benefit from help and support to continue to build their vocabulary and to develop their communication skills.

How well children and young people communicate with others has a big influence on how well they are able to build healthy friendships. It can reduce the risk of bullying and make it easier for children to describe their feelings and ask for help if they are struggling. Children with good language skills have been shown to do better at school and can have better life chances.

Continue to spend time talking about thoughts, feelings, interests and experiences. Keep in the habit of spending time with each other or as a family. School and out of school activities will also play a role in helping your child develop their communication skills.

Dive Deeper


Children learn a lot through playing, even as they get older. They still benefit from time playing with the adults in their lives. They will enjoy joining in with other interests and activities with you, such as;

  • Cooking
  • Board or card games
  • Gardening
  • Making things together
  • Playing with toys
  • Dressing up.

Play will give an opportunity to talk and listen to each other, while having fun.

Children will also learn from playing with other children – this might be through school, after-school clubs or sports they enjoy. This will give opportunity to practice their skills in cooperation and being part of a group or team.


As children settle into school life they will be learning more about how words are formed. They will be learning how to read and spell.

You can support this learning at home by listening to them read and by pointing out words when you are out and about. They may bring books home from school that you can share together. Look for words on the sides of buses, shop windows, road signs or in supermarkets.

Children still really enjoy and learn from being read to. Keep story time special – you may well find books that you both look forward to reading the next chapter of together.


Family routines and technology free mealtimes, give a great opportunity to spend quality time together.

  • Practice simple words like 'yes', 'no, 'please' or 'thankyou'
  • Listen to each others day
  • Ask questions.

Sometimes there may be squabbles and arguments across the table. Learning how to manage these is a life skill and family time can be a ‘safe space’ to do this.

  • Make a family plan about how you can be respectful and make sure everyone gets the chance to say how they feel, and hear how the other person feels.
  • Make sure grown ups in the family set a good example and manage their disagreements in a healthy way.
  • Grown ups in the family can set a good example by listening and talking through disagreements together to find the answer. Learning to compromise is an important communication skill.
  • When it all ‘goes wrong’ and feelings are hurt - make sure children and young people know the importance of saying sorry and forgiving one another.

Screen Time

Using tablet’s, game consoles, smartphones and computers is a part of modern life. Used with care, children can learn some communication skills from them.

Some parents worry about how to get a healthy balance between technology and spending quality face-to-face time together.

  • Set a good example – make sure your child always knows you prefer talking to them than being on your devices.
  • Use technology together – using apps and games together means you can talk through what you see and make the most of the learning opportunity.
  • If your child loves a certain type of game look for something in the ‘real world’ that is similar. If they like football games take them to see local teams play at the park. Get them active joining a team.
  • Help them understand how to keep safe online and have family rules about how long and when your child uses technology.

If You Are Worried

Firstly remember that each child will develop at their own pace. Spend as much time as you can playing and talking with your child without distractions – even 5 minutes here and there adds up and can make a big difference.

If your child attends a school or setting, talk to them about your worries – they will be able to work with you to build your child’s skills and advise on any next steps needed.

You can also contact our Just One Number team on the details below to talk through your concerns. The team may ask about your child's hearing and vision to be sure this is not getting in the way of their communication skill development.

Who can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

You can speak to other Norfolk parents and carers by clicking our online community forum below. 

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