Communication and language

Interactions

Learn more about interactions as part of the early years foundation stage (EYFS) including advice from experts and suggested activities.

Why interactions are important

From birth, babies want to connect with others and are eager to interact. For example, they might kick their legs ready to play a peekaboo game. These are important parts of an interaction that adults should notice and encourage.

Being with others helps children to build social relationships which provide opportunities for friendship, empathy and sharing emotions.

Research shows that good interactions between adults and children make a big difference to how well communication and language skills develop. Children benefit from being with responsive and enthusiastic adults who show interest in talking with them.

Video

In this video, an early years expert explains the importance of interactions in the early years foundation stage framework. There are also some tips on how to support children in this area.

What the early years foundation stage (EYFS) framework says

Children’s back-and-forth interactions from an early age form the foundations for language and mental development.

The number and quality of the conversations they have with adults and other children throughout the day in a language-rich environment is crucial.

By commenting on what children are doing or interested in and echoing back what they say with new vocabulary added, you will build children’s language effectively.

Statutory framework for the early years foundation stage.

What this means in practice

The setting, relationships and the role of the adults are important in maintaining good interactions with children.

Good interactions use:

  • words
  • body language
  • facial expressions
  • actions
  • songs

To support children who are non-verbal use objects, pictures, or visual cues, such as showing a coat to indicate going outside.

Taking turns and waiting for a child to respond builds confidence and independence. Maintain a conversation by being warm and attentive and adapting your language to meet the needs of individual children.

If you join in with children’s play and comment, repeat back, wonder aloud and add new words you will extend their language.

You should plan the curriculum to allow for these good interactions and share ideas with parents to support the children at home.

Suggested activities

Blowing bubbles

You’ll need:

  • a bubble wand and bubble mixture
  • an uncluttered, quiet, familiar place to play on the floor where both child and adult can see each other well
  • uninterrupted time so that the interactions can be unrushed and the adult has time to notice and tune in to the child

Simple games like blowing bubbles can help babies and non-verbal children to learn to take turns and communicate.

Capture the child’s attention and interest by blowing the bubbles and watching them pop.

Build anticipation by saying “ready, steady……” but do not blow the bubbles yet. Smile and wait for the child to gesture (reach out) before blowing the bubbles again as you say “Go.”

Respond to their reaction and notice what they do. Use words to accompany their reaction, such as “yay, bubbles.”

Repeat when the child reaches out again “ah, you want more bubbles?” Wait until they are ready to play again, they might show you with facial expressions, giggles, gestures, eye contact and movement.

This fun game is a great way to engage very young learners who are pre-verbal or older learners who may have communication difficulties. It teaches about the back and forth of communication and interaction to support the idea of a conversation.

Communication boxes

Encourage children to bring in boxes filled with things from home to share and to talk about with you. You can make one too, to show to your group of children and their parents and carers.

The box may include:

  • photos of important people and pets
  • a favourite toy or book
  • objects from a special trip

This encourages children to share and engage in meaningful interactions, about things that are important and familiar to them.

As part of this activity, you might:

  • introduce new vocabulary
  • ask questions, allowing children time to answer to learn more about the child and their parents or carers
  • encourage children to practise using new vocabulary in a meaningful context

This activity will also help to develop the important relationships between you, the children and their parents and carers, which will support warm and positive interactions in the future.

How the activity links to the other areas of learning

Developing relationships through communication and sharing experiences supports personal, social and emotional development as well as early literacy skills. Being able to connect socially as well as use language to explain ideas and share thinking with others is central to successful learning in all areas.

Other activities

Simple games like blowing bubbles in this clip from the community children’s health partnership can help children to take turns and communicate from an early age.

Speech language and communication strategies and resources from birth to 5.

What other nurseries and childminders are doing

“In practice we use ‘Ask me about…’ stickers to encourage communication through positive adult-child interactions. Practitioners will write a brief note on a sticker about something interesting each child has done at pre-school that day and give it to the child to share. Children and their parents or carers can then talk about it together on their way home. The intention was to spark discussion, create opportunities for meaningful interactions, and develop those important two-way relationships between early years providers and home.”

Anna, Noah’s Ark Preschool, Northamptonshire.

Summary

  • Children are born to communicate and will seek out interaction.
  • Good interactions and conversations depend on social relationships and tuned-in adults.
  • A well-planned language rich environment is important to facilitate good interactions.
  • Planning and reflecting on the quality and time available for conversations will increase opportunities for learning language and communication skills.
  • Listening, asking open questions, commenting, repeating, extending, adapting, and valuing non-verbal communication will support children’s communication.

Next steps

  • Consider if you make enough time and space for conversations based on the interests of children.
  • Make sure your interactions support the children’s communication and language.
  • Make sure that your interactions reflect the individual communication needs of each child.
  • Consider if the learning environments are set up in a way that enables communication and talk.
  • Review your curriculum to ensure you cover the requirements in the EYFS for this area of learning.