Communication and Language: Listen to this

Written by: Karen Hart
Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Playing outdoors with friends is a perfect way to boost communication skills and these simple games are easy to set up. Children will enjoy sharing and talking about their tactile, sensory experiences.


Outdoor Play: Play In The EYFS by Sue Durant (Practical Pre-School Books)
Outdoor Play for 1-3 Year Olds by Isabel Hopwood-Stephens (Routledge)
The Outdoor Classroom Ages 3-7: Using Ideas From Forest Schools to Enrich Learning by Karen Constable (Routledge)

Key vocabulary
Vibration, telephone, rhyme, whisper, conversation, message
Key learning points
Children learn there are different ways to communicate – quietly, loud, with rhymes, though telephones and whispers
They are are encouraged to concentrate and listen carefully
Communication is shown as a two-way process – talking and listening

Nothing encourages communication and language skills quite like playing with friends, and playing outdoors is perfect as it brings a whole new dimension to playtime through the experiences of different types of weather, different seasons, and witnessing and exploring a natural environment with all the tactile, sensory experiences this offers. All the activities here are easy to set up and low on resources and are suitable for children from two years plus – with a little bit of help.

Playing and exploring
Children have fun discovering how they can communicate at a distance
They practise conversation skills
They have a go at talking on the telephone

You will need: two paper or plastic disposable cups – the large type if possible; a length of string – approximately 12ft long is probably easiest to work with paper clips

Make a small hole in the bottom of each cup and thread one end of your length of string through the bottom of them, tying a paper clip to each end of the string. 

How they work
When you speak into the cup the vibrations from your voice causes vibrations to travel along the string which are converted back into sound waves when they reach the other end of the string. This allows you to hear what the person on the phone is saying.

Tell children to stand as far apart as the string allows, keeping the string taut. One child should place their ear to their cup while the child at the opposite end of the string talks into their cup. Can children hear each other talking?

Active learning
Children concentrate on the game.
They persevere to distinguish loud and quiet sounds
They enjoy listening carefully

Listening games
You will need: Some small natural objects, such as; a pinecone, a small pebble, a twig, a leaf and a feather.

Tell children to stand in their own space, so they have a little bit of room around them. Stand a short distance away from children and drop objects from head height one at a time onto a hard surface. Can children hear the objects hit the ground? Which objects couldn’t be heard? Now try again, but this time have children close their eyes. Tell them to put their hand up when they can hear the objects hit the ground. Do children nd it harder this time? Repeat the activity but this time instead of dropping objects, say children’s names in a quiet voice, asking them to repeat the name they think you said – did they hear correctly? Get quieter and quieter, seeing how quietly you can speak and still be heard.

Extension activity:
Try playing a game of ‘whispers-along-the-circle;’ Begin the game with children sitting in a circle. One child starts the game by whispering a short sentence to the child sitting next to them, such as ‘Mary had a little lamb’, the next child whispers this to the child sitting next to them, with the whisper getting passed along the circle until it reaches the last child who has to call out the message they received.

I have played this game with three and four-year-olds many times, and children soon get wise to the fact they can change the message being passed, pretending to have heard incorrectly to make the end result funnier – a great language and communication lesson being learnt.

Creating and thinking critically
Children use their vocabulary skills – ‘having their own ideas’ for rhyming words
Children think about the way words sound, ‘making links’ with words they know
They choose objects and words – ‘choosing ways to do things’

Treasure hunt rhyming game
Take children outdoors, either to your outside space or a local park. Tell everyone to collect one interesting object. Back at your setting, look at all the collected objects together as a group. Help children think of a word to rhyme with each object. For example, twig – dig, flower- tower etc. When you get to tricky words such as leaf, it’s fine to suggest a rhyming word children may not know, such as ‘wreath’, just tell them what the word means, for example; ‘A Christmas wreath is the name of the pretty decorations some people put on their front door at Christmas time – can anyone remember seeing one of these?’ If you can’t think of a rhyming word at all, just say you can’t think of one.

During circle time sessions, bring two or three of the objects into the circle to show children again, asking if anyone can remember their rhyming word, or maybe think of another.

I found this activity to be a great way of introducing rhyming words, increasing vocabulary and encouraging language skills. I was surprised how good children were at rhyming and younger children, around the two years mark, joined in by collecting objects, investigating the objects found and repeating or having a go at new words.

When it comes to observations, look for children trying to form rhyming words, even if these are not real words, and for instances of them making good connections with others – such as making conversation using telephones, or thinking of funny messages to pass in the Whispers-along- the-Circle game. Observe younger children understanding the difference between loud and quiet sounds and being able to replicate these.

In the playground
Animal sounds musical bumps: This is a game that’s easy enough for children of two years plus to join in with. They won’t stick to the rules but will enjoy the game anyway – dancing around and making sounds.

Play musical bumps in the usual way – playing music for everyone to dance to, then suddenly turning the music down as the signal for everyone to sit down on the spot as quickly as they can. The last one to sit down is traditionally the loser of the round and sits out, the winner being the last player ‘not out’, but in this easy version no-one loses and the game keeps going as long as you like. Also, every time the music stops as well as sitting down, children have to make the sound of an animal, such as a moo, roar or quack. Encourage children to change their animal sounds as often as they can. After the game ask children which animal sounds they used and which animals make these sounds.

EYFS Early Learning Goals
By observing objects in the natural world, the Treasure Hunt game is a good way of covering the following EYFS goal: Children know about similarities and differences in relation to places, objects, materials and living things. They talk about the features of their own immediate environment and how environments might vary from one another. They make observations of animals and plants and explain why some things occur, and talk about changes. You could also think about ways to meet self-con dence and self-awareness goal for PSED, where children are encouraged to communicate with others and use their voices throughout the activities here, e.g. on play telephones and playing listening games, which can be used to cover the following learning goal: Children are con dent to try new activities, and say why they like some activities more than others. They are con dent to speak in

a familiar group, will talk about their ideas, and will choose the resources they need for their chosen activities. They say when they do or don’t need help.

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