Parents and carers will be given suggestions for 50 things to do with their children before they are five as part of a new early language development scheme from Oxfordshire County Council.
Being able to communicate effectively supports children’s mental health and wellbeing, their self-confidence and the forming of friendships in the early years, as well as being the backbone of later literacy development.
The initiative, which officially launches this week, will use a free downloadable phone app to provide families with a list of activities designed to help their child’s pre-school development. There will be an emphasis on parent-child interaction to assist with speech in the under fives.
Councillor Liz Brighouse, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children, Education and Youth Services, said: “This exciting initiative is part of the county council’s school readiness work, supporting families and nurseries to enable children to have all the ingredients they need from birth to develop their early language skills.
“There are so many wonderful and rewarding ways to interact with your child, from singing nursery rhymes, dancing, telling stories about everything you do together, jumping in puddles and skipping to the shops and nursery.”
Each suggested activity will be no cost - low cost. The choice is almost endless: Making mud pies, looking at birds and other easily accessible wildlife; enjoying learning to understand and describe the things around us by using a list of suggested words to expand vocabulary.
The ‘50 things to do before you're five’ app will also promote local activities and experiences to young families – with links to local venues and events. It will offer notifications of important dates and reminders, such as registering with a local dentist and applying for a nursery and school place. It contains information, guidance and supporting resources that allow parents to build a private digital memory bank of their child's special moments.
Oxfordshire County Council’s project team aims to boost the confidence of parents and carers, showing that learning through play is a fun and effective teaching method, increasing the language and skills of children before they enter school.
Jennie Perry, Oxfordshire County Council’s project lead, said: "Fifty things to do before you're five caters for different abilities, interests and ages, from very young babies to toddlers and children about to turn five.
“It supports pre-school development in a lot of areas, with an overriding message for parents and carers. If you work on speech, language and communication skills in the under fives, it will have a massively positive effect on the rest of their lives.”
Blackbird Leys parent Shannon Steepe said: “I really like the inclusivity and variety of activities offered by the 50 things app. It allows all parents to find fun suggestions that work for them and their child. It’s already given me some great ideas, such as taking my son on a night time walk to see the stars and exploring different modes of transport.”
Steph Lella, from Banbury, said: “I think the app is fantastic, there are so many different low cost and free options for both at home and out and about. I especially love that the app suggests how you can adapt activities to suit all children.”
The county council estimates that there are 42,000 children under the age of five in Oxfordshire.
Further information is available on the 50 things to do before you're five website, from where the app can be downloaded.
Each 50 things activity has a number assigned to it. For example, blowing bubbles is # 8 Bubbles (see image above), and splashing in puddles and mud is # 29 Pitter Patter (see image below).
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