Natasha Kaplinsky Credit Ian Derry Blog Photo

Chatting at the changing table: Let’s talk about talk

Renowned TV presenter and journalist Natasha Kaplinsky is co-founder of the Mum & You baby brand and is passionate about promoting early communication skills. She discusses how we can help parents overcome the barriers they face in supporting their child’s language development.

“Over a quarter of children are leaving Reception without the language skills they need to get by at school, leaving them unable to learn to read, develop friendships or communicate their needs. That’s over 180,000 children in the UK at risk of falling behind due to delayed language.

This alarming statistic has been left unspoken about for too long. But is it too easy to blame parents for the crisis in early language skills?

As a mother to two children, I know all too well how overwhelming the expectations placed on parents of young kids can feel. We all want the best for our children, but with many working long hours to provide for their family, educating your child before they even begin school can feel like an insurmountable task. Children from low-income households are disproportionately affected; how can we hold parents accountable for their child’s language skills when they’re struggling to make ends meet?

Our modern lives are stressful, and anything from using dummies to sooth tantrums to allowing too much screen time can provoke criticism. Instead of making mums and dads feel guilty, we need to increase awareness of how to incorporate language learning into our busy day-to-day lives. Public health campaigns such as ‘eat your five a day’ helped to make healthy eating straightforward; it’s time to do the same for early language skills.

That’s why I’m supporting initiatives such as the Department for Education’s Chat, Play, Read campaign. Rather than lecturing parents, the campaign aims to show how fun and easy it can be to help young children develop language skills. It can be as simple as pointing and talking about the things you see while shopping in the supermarket. Many parents are unaware of how important it is to talk to their baby right from the start, or at what age they should expect to hear their first words. Increasing knowledge and understanding is the first step to encouraging language learning at home.

Children’s communication is an issue close to our hearts at Mum & You, which is why we’ve recently partnered with I CAN to help children develop speech and language skills as they grow. Our Nappychat products and accompanying app were launched to encourage chat at the changing table, with colourful characters to help parents play, sing and explore with their baby. Simple solutions such as this can enrich children’s vocabulary and encourage social interaction from a young age.

Raising awareness about the importance of home learning is crucial. But we must do so in a way that understands, supports and encourages busy parents, empowering them to give their children the best start in life.”