It's good to talk!

Giving children the chance to speak

We all enjoy a good catch up with friends and family; staying connected and putting the world to rights. Especially within the current climate when face to face contact is limited and more people than ever are communicating though virtual mediums. As adults we speak without giving much thought to the process; dialogue just flows as we open our mouth and speak. However, for children this process isn’t quite as easy and from that first gasp of breath, children need to be taught how to talk.

Talking to children frequently from the day they are born is one of the most important ways to help them be prepared for school. A famous study conducted by researchers Hart and Risley, found a positive correlation between the number of words a 3-year-old child hears and their literacy development, often referred to as the “word gap.” The Hart and Risley study, and others completed since, have established a connection between poor early literacy skills and lifelong academic challenges.

It also identified that there is a 30-million-word gap between children in a language-rich home environment compared to children in a language-deficient home environment. Furthermore, the more parents talked to their children, the faster the children’s vocabularies were growing and the higher the children’s IQ test scores were at the age of 3 and later.

Put simply, the more words a child hears, the more prepared they are when they enter school. By the age of 8, children who hear more words tend to have bigger vocabularies, be stronger readers and perform better on tests.

So, how can we ensure that our children are immersed in a language rich environment?

Tune in, talk more and take turns.

Tune in by paying attention to what your child is communicating to you. 

Talk more with your child using descriptive words to build their vocabulary. 

Take turns by encouraging your child to respond to your words and actions. 

If you find that your child is struggling with areas of speech and language, the important thing to remember is that it’s never too late. There are many avenues available to support and encourage your child’s language including the NHS Lothian’s website “lets-talk” and specialist speech and language therapist. 

Here is a summary of their top tips:

Demonstrate the right way to say a word

Repeat what your child says in the correct speech model. Children need to feel relaxed and confident in order to experiment with sounds, so avoid asking them to repeat your pronunciation of words.

Don’t pretend to understand

If your child is not clear, try asking questions; Saying “show me.”

Encourage the use of gestures alongside saying the word

Remember that it is normal for young children to use natural gestures. Research

shows that only 2% of information from very young children is carried by the words.

Follow your child’s lead

Make a “special time” when you know you have 15-20 minutes to really focus your attention on them and their communication

Responding to your child’s signals

In your special time ensure you are at the same level as your child, to capture their attention and to find out what is fun for them.


Interpret what your child is trying to say and say it as they would, if they could.

Match + one

Copy what your child says in their sentence and add one more word as you repeat it back to them.

Repeat, repeat, repeat

It requires thousands of repetitions before a child says their first word and it requires hundreds of repetitions for the next 50 words. However, it can only require 1-2 repetitions for new words to be learnt once a child has their initial 200. 

Leaving gaps

Leave gaps in sentences and songs, allowing your child to say the word. If they don’t’ respond then say the word for them.

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Cargilfield where everyday is an adventure

Welcome to Cargilfield! We hope this short film gives you a glimpse of what life is like for the girls and boys at our school. We would love to welcome you in person to tour Cargilfield and explain more fully exactly what makes a Cargilfield education so special and so different. Please get in touch with Fiona Craig, our Registrar if you would like to find out more; her email address is [email protected] or you can telephone her on 0131 336 2207.

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