In Tamsin Grimmer’s article this month, “Keep on talking and mind the gap” (on page 26), she reveals that on average, 49% of year one children are lacking the vocabulary they need to access the curriculum, which, in turn, negatively impacts their learning.

Dedicating time for organic ‘serve and return conversation’, paying attention and meaningful communication – is more important than just continually trying to add words to the children’s vocabulary. As Tamsin points out in her article; “words are important, but they are only part of the story of language and communication development.”

Here are some activities that you can implement in your setting that will help expand the children’s vocabulary in a more holistic way, and at the same time covering many of the areas of learning and development in the EYFS. We hope you enjoy them!

Communication and Language


One of the wonderful things about role-play is that we can “set the scene” for the children but then allow them to let their imaginations (and therefore speech) flow, but we can also role-play with them. This is a great way of supporting their language and coaching them to use the correct terminology for whatever props or resources you are using within the scenario. By doing this, we naturally extend children’s knowledge of different ‘sets’ of words, e.g. words associated with going to the doctors (ill, poorly, sick, stethoscope, tongue depressor, medicine, bandage, plaster etc.)

Personal, Social and Emotional Development

Reading and rhyming

An old favourite and a wonderful way to engage children of all ages in your setting, is to introduce the concept of rhyming words. The great thing about this activity is that it covers all the learning goals of the communication and language criteria. Matching and rhyming words is the perfect way to start with even the youngest of children and guarantees much excitement in the room! It’s never too early to start reading to children and the more rhyming and facial expressions you use, the more interaction you are likely to get back.


Storytime with a difference

Gather the children in the reading corner for story-time with a difference. Divide them up into small groups and let each group decide between them, what the ending will be! Each group may take it in a completely different direction, but the important thing is that they will learn different words from each other and there is no right or wrong.

Understanding the World

Get messy!

Child-led messy play fits in perfectly with open-ended exploration and offers so many opportunities for the children to experiment with language. You can start the ball rolling by talking about the various textures of what they are touching, and then introduce alliterations such as slippery, slimy, sloppy etc. This is certain to get the children all talking enthusiastically and learning new words.

Expression of interest

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