Communication Friendly Environments

Part of implementing the ‘time to talk’ strategy is for practitioners to think about their communication environment. Environment covers a range of features but ‘time to talk’™ encourages practitioners to consider the means, reasons and opportunities that they offer for children to communicate.

Means – the method by which the child communicates.

Depending on their developmental level, children have different means of communication. Some use vocalisations and babble. Others use gestures and pointing. Some use words that might not be easy to interpret. Others join words to make phrases and sentences. ‘time to talk’™ encourages practitioners to consider the means that their children are using when planning activities and environments. For example, if your children are using lots of gestures, it makes sense to set up activities so that you can see their gestures, e.g. around a little table or across a mat rather than against a wall. Or, if children are beginning to use words but they are not yet very clear, then it is important to minimise background noise so that you can hear and respond to their attempts.

Reasons – why the child communicates.

We all have our reasons for communicating. It might be to give a greeting, to make requests, to ask for information or help, to say ‘no’, to share feelings or ideas or to solve a problem. ‘time to talk’™ encourages practitioners  to think about what reasons children have to communicate when setting up activities. Do the children have all the pieces that they need or do they need to approach someone to get more? Do they have any problems to solve or has all the thinking been done for them?

Opportunities – what chances we offer for children to communicate.

Adults are a crucial part of the communication environment. Using ‘time to talk’™ strategies helps to make sure that adults are providing children with plenty of opportunities to communicate. Are the adults at the children’s level? Are they face to face? Do they follow the children’s lead? Do they use simple language and avoid asking too many questions? Do they respond to the children’s communication by repeating and adding words?

A successful environment will adapt to the means, reasons and opportunities for the children that use it.

Here is our CFE audit to help you review your spaces.

And here’s a short case study from Community Playthings.