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ECAT - top tips for talking

Eaton Socon Pre-School, St Neots

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‘re 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, sounds 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.

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