Thursday, 12 July 2012

Tips for talking:by parents, for parents

A group of Stafford parents have been attending a unique, new course called Chuckle Talkers at one of the Sure Start Children’s Centres. It combines two of the service providers at the centre; Sara from Chuckle Productions and yours truly from Small Talk speech and language therapy. We have written a 10 part programme to look at encouraging speech, language and communication and gross/fine motor skills throughout the day. This was a pilot project and involved 10 families who have children under 5.

One of the main aims was to show that communication takes place in everyday situations all the time so that there is no need to make extra time for this. Parents can use the activities they do several times a day,  everyday e.g. parents change a baby or toddler’s nappy 5 or 6 times a day so if they know how to make this a communication opportunity, that’s 5/6 opportunities a day without extra time being involved. ‘Parents are extremely busy these days so it’s important not to give them extra to do, rather to get them to optimise what they do’, says Sara, ‘It’s quite stressful if you feel you need to make extra time when you’re already busy’. A current buzz word in management is to work smarter not harder and this applies here too. Sara has shown the parents how motor skills develop and the tie in with communication.

The families have looked at 10 different scenarios from a child’s day. The parents have had a classroom session and then joined the children for an imaginative journey to re-inforce what they’ve discussed. We have used a variety of videos to look at each aspect e.g. meal time, bedtime, story-time, music, and lots of discussion. By the end the parents were really good at identifying what made a good communication opportunity. We had looked at ICAN’s top tips for encouraging children’s communication but I was so impressed by their insight, I asked them to come up with their own.

Here are the 10 top tips written by parents for parents:

1.       Make talking fun

2.       Listen to your child

3.       Use simple language, keep sentences short

4.       Don’t use too many questions. A ‘handy’ rule is 1 question to 4 comments

5.       Give the child time to respond

6.       Let the child take the lead/go at their own pace

7.       Think about limiting the amount of TV a child watches. Only have it on when actually watching it and not as ‘wall-paper’ .

8.       Think about dummy use. May be limit to bed/nap times or when needs comfort and never when they’re talking

9.       Be kind to yourself, don’t set yourself unrealistic targets

10.   Don’t  compare yourself or your child to others. We are all different and develop at our own pace

The parents have suggested topics for a Level 2 of Chuckle Talkers, which hopefully will be carried out next term.  


  1. There is nothing like getting reserach from serrvice users. How fantastic Libby. It sounds like a great programme.

  2. We enjoyed doing it and it was great to see how much their confidence and self esteem grew. During the first 2 or 3 sessions, some of them hid behind their mobiles and didn't look at me but by session 7, they didn't even have the phones out. The latest research on language development shows that how parents feel about themselves has the biggest impact on their interaction with children and consequently the influence on the child's progress (or lack of)!