Every Child A Talker

What is ECAT?

ECAT (Every Child a Talker) began as a National Strategy that was introduced across England. ECAT focuses on encouraging the communication skills of young children through work with early years settings. It aims to 

  • Identifying and supporting children who may be 'at risk of delay'.
  • Developing the knowledge and skills of all of the practitioners who work within the setting.
  • Helping parents to understand the stages of development of speech and language skills and how they can encourage their child's development.

Did you know...?

In the UK, over 1 million children and young people (that’s 2 to 3 in every UK classroom) have some form of long term and persistent speech, language and communication difficulty. This can affect a child early, severely and for life.

In some areas of the UK, over 50% of children are starting school with delayed communication skills. Their speech may be unclear, vocabulary is smaller, sentences are shorter and they are able to understand only simple instructions. Many of these children can catch up with the right support.

Communication skills are important...

  • How 'school ready' a child is at age four is strongly predicted by their vocabulary and ability to talk in short sentences at the age of two years.
  • A child's vocabulary at age five is a predictor of his educational success and outcomes at age 30.
  • The most important influences on children's early development are those that come from home.
  • Shared reading as young as 8 months of age is strongly associated with the child's use of spoken language at 12 and 18 months of age.
  • Looking back at 15 year olds' educational attainments, it was found that children who were read to by their parents during the first years of school showed markedly higher scores.


Every adult who spends time with children can help them to develop their communication skills...

1. Observe, wait, listen. Your child may be playing an interesting and imaginative game that you can join in with.

2. Get down to your child's level. This will give your child the chance to make eye contact with you and to watch your facial expressions.

3. Let your child take the lead. Your child will learn more from an activity that they are interested in.

4. Encourage your child to communicate in any way possible. If your child points to the item that they want when you offer them a choice, name the item and repeat the word several times for them to hear.

5. Encourage your child to join in with play. Play is very important in encouraging the development of your child's speech, language and communication skills.

6. Speak to your child using your strongest language. This does not have to be English. It is beneficial for a child to learn more than one language, especially in the early years.

7. Reduce background noise. Turn off the television when playing and talking together. This will help your child to listen to what you are saying to them.

8. Don't let your child speak with a dummy in their mouth. The dummy will get in the way of talking. Using a dummy during the day may also discourage your child from making sounds and talking.

9. Enjoy songs and nursery rhymes together. Repetition and actions will help your child to join in with you.

10. Slow down your rate of speech. This will give your child more time to process what you have said and will also encourage them to slow down when you are chatting together.

11. Give your child at least ten seconds to respond to what you have said. 'Thinking time' is very important and will help your child to join in with conversation.

12. Repeat an instruction using the same words. If your child is struggling to follow an instruction, repeat the instruction using the same words. This will give your child more time to process what you have said.

13. Reduce the number of questions that you ask your child. Instead comment on what your child is doing. ("Questions test, comments teach").

14. Name items and pictures that your child is looking at. This will help them to learn the meaning of new words. Repeat new and unfamiliar words several times for your child to hear.

15. Offer your child choices. Hold up the choices that are available and name them. This will help your child to learn more words (e.g. "blackcurrant juice or orange juice?" and "Do you want the red car or the blue car?") and will give them an opportunity to communicate what they would like.

16. Talk about events and activities as they are happening. Every day activities provide wonderful learning opportunities (e.g. naming food items as you unpack the shopping or describing what you are doing as you clean the room).

17. Show your child how to say it correctly. Children make mistakes. Show them how to do it rather than telling them that they have got it wrong (Child: "I runned to the park", Adult: "Good boy, you ran to the park").

18. Add one word to what your child has said. This will show your child how to put more words together (Child: "car", Adult: "red car" / Child: "dog gone", Adult: "dog gone home").

19. Emphasise the correct pronunciation. If your child makes a mistake, repeat the word and emphasise the correct pronunciation (Child: "tat teep", Adult: "the cat's asleep, yes the cat is asleep"). Do not ask them to say it again. They will do this when they are ready.

Spring and Easter Talking Tips

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