Building communication skills in under-fives
By Dan Allard
Sadly, many children in the UK lack fundamental communication skills when they start school. By focusing on the building blocks of language development for 0-4-year-olds, the BBC's Tiny Happy People initiative aims to help parents and carers nurture children's language ability and improve their life chances. This can be a great resource for speech and language therapists to share with parents.
Developed in association with leading child language development experts, Tiny Happy People is supported by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge, who has described the initiative as “gold dust”.
Tiny Happy People sets out to make a major contribution in halving the number of children in the UK who fail to reach the required developmental outcomes in literacy by the end of their reception year. Hopefully, in turn, this will significantly reduce the number of children who need specialist intervention from health professionals such as speech and language therapists.
The Duchess shared "In the first few months as new parents there’s a huge amount of support from midwives and health visitors. From then, there’s a massive gap before children start school, and it’s in that time that I think parents really need the support.”
In England, one in four children starting primary school are behind with their level of literacy development, in terms of language, communication and literacy skills. This figure rises to more than one in three in some areas (Department for Education, 2019). The Tiny Happy People website provides a wide range of valuable, evidence-based ideas and activities that parents and carers can build into a daily routine. Divided into age groups up to five, the list of activities even includes some for use during pregnancy, for example 'talking to bump' and 'playing music to baby'.
Healthcare job profiles
As well as suggested activities, the website has a wealth of easily-accessible articles and information for parents. The Tips and Advice section includes a 'Who am I?' feature which explores the various healthcare roles that parents may encounter during their child's early years, from midwives and sonographers to speech and language therapists.
There's also a 'Science and Facts' section which gives insight into a child's brain development and how they come to understand the world. Engaging animated videos focus on a range of topics, including 'the science of singing to bump', 'how baby babble helps your baby to start speaking' and 'how walking can help with babies talking'.
More famous names
The Duchess of Cambridge is not the only high-profile supporter of Tiny Happy People. A number of other celebrity parents of young children are acting as ambassadors for the initiative, including JLS singer J B Gill, Coronation Street actress Jennie McAlpine, TV presenter Annie Price, Love Island's Jess Shears and Dom Lever, and Hollyoaks star Kieron Richardson.
"Tiny Happy People is incredibly important, " explains J B Gill. "The activities are great for your child’s future communication skills to help them get the best start. For me, the best thing about being a parent is seeing them learn every day."
We work hard to ensure our community have access to a number of great resources. We have also written a series of blogs around navigating your speech and language therapy career.