Communication and language development

Activity - Rivers

Words to use with your child: river, float, sink, make, fold, crease, join, leak, together, wet, water, flow, fast, slow, trickle, drip, gush.

Children learn new describing words most effectively when they are able to experience the word first hand.  This is a wonderful learning opportunity.  When we do it in nursery it really excites the children and they work together to solve problems for long periods. 

Grab a roll of tin foil (you will probably use the lot, sorry!).  Decide where you would like to build a river and get started.  You can fold the foil, sink the foil, have buckets at either end, slope it, add a bridge, dip it, make junctions whatever you like. 

It will leak, but, don’t worry as children can develop their thinking skills and try out new ideas.  If it doesn’t work encourage them to try something else, in this way they will be learning how to test ideas.

Throughout the activity model the words suggested so that they can begin to use them for themselves, e.g. “look how the water is gushing down the slope” “there is a leak, can you see the water trickling out of it.”


Words to use with your child: stalk, stem, petal, leaf, bud, roots, twig, veins, grow, furry, soft, smooth, prickly, rough, hairs, knobbly, bobbly, trunk.

Help your child to really understand what new words mean by gathering natural materials in the garden or woods and then sorting them into pots as shown in photograph or make a big chart using garden chalks.  If you don’t want to pull things up set challenges like:

  • “can you find four petals in the garden?”
  • “can you find a prickly stem?”
  • “can you find an oval leaf?”

Activity - Talking about fruit

Words to use with your child: squeeze, juice, juicy, smooth, rough, gritty, smell, taste, look, skin, peel, seeds, pips, sour, sweet, colour, red, yellow, green, purple, orange, food, pickle, pitted, lumpy, bumpy, moist, drip, succulent, ripe, flavour, tangy, bite, nibble.

Food Description Game

(Photograph shows the foods in the story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar if you want to link the foods you use to the story).

This is a great activity for developing your child’s descriptive vocabulary.  There are several ways to play.

  1. Put different pieces of fruit in front of you and your child.  Spend some time talking about what the fruit is called and how it looks and feels.  This is not ‘cheating’ it is helping children as you are modelling the new language so that they can then practise using it for the game.  Now your child can close their eyes while you put one behind your back.  Give them descriptive clues to help them to work out which one is missing e.g. the skin on this fruit feels bumpy.

Give your child the chance to be the questioner, this will help them to use the language you have modelled for themselves.  

  1. Your child may be able to work out which is missing using their memory, so use two pieces of each fruit and put one set under a towel, choose one to put in a bag and then reveal the answer at the end.
  2. Adapt the game above so that they have tasted the different foods first and then use a blindfold, hat or simply cover their eyes with your hand, and let them taste a piece of fruit and tell you how it tastes and which piece of fruit it is.

Activity - Fire bread

Words to use with your child: bread, dough, stretchy, pull, lengthen, gloopy, sticky, mix, flour, dusty, water, sloppy, yeast, stick, fire, light, flames, smoke, smoulder, sparks, safe, wrap, cook, bake, alter, change, singe, burn, toast, golden, colour, smell, hot.

Go for a walk in the woods and find some long, thick sticks that you can use at home to cook bread on.

If you have a fire pit or a barbecue this is great fun for little ones to make.  If not build a camp fire with your children instead.  Involve your children as you light it and talk together about how to stay safe and why. 

Make some bread dough using the recipe below.  As you make the dough encourage your child to talk about how the ingredients, look, smell and feel.   Model new vocabulary e.g. “the flour is really dusty”.  Keep this up as the ingredients are mixed together; talk about the changes that occur. 

The fire should be nice and hot by this point.  Roll the dough by hand into long ribbons; talk about the way it lengthens and stretches out.  Wrap the dough around the end of the sticks; again use language to describe this e.g. “I like the way you are wrapping the stretchy dough round and round the stick.”

Now your child can hold their stick over the fire to cook the bread.  Praise your child for being safe near to the fire.  Encourage your child to look closely at the way the dough changes as it cooks and to talk about what they can see.

Finally… EAT IT! YUM!

Activity - Naming parts of the body

Words to use with your child: balloon, up, down, behind, in front, elbow, knee, nose, forehead, top of head, ear, knuckle, wrist, ankle, stomach, thigh, calf, float, hand, how long? One minute, ten seconds, time.

Balloon keepy-uppy – Blow up a balloon.  Explain that if the balloon falls onto the floor a ravenous beast will try to eat it (see last weeks storytime video). 

You will shout out different parts of the body and they can only keep the balloon up with that part.  Use the more obscure parts above so that children can learn these words. 

Add in an extra layer of learning by timing them on your phone stopwatch and writing it down each time.  This way children will be hearing the language of time and seeing how numbers are written down.

Guaranteed giggles.