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Every Child a Talker (ECAT)

Every Child a Talker (ECAT) is a national project to develop the language and communication of children from birth to five years of age. The project was set up after concern about the high levels of ‘language impoverishment’ in the UK, and how this affects children’s progress in school and chances in life.
ECAT strategies and resources are designed to help you to create a supportive and stimulating environment within your provision in which children can enjoy experimenting with and learning language.
ECAT will encourage the development of early language through everyday fun and interesting activities which reflect children’s interests and enable them to become confident and skilled communicators.
Please click on the following links to move to the specific ECAT resources, strategies and documentation.
ECAT Guidance
Child Monitoring Tool and Action Plan
Early Interventions - NHS Partnerships
Strategies and Resources
Partnerships with parents
LCC Language Strategy

ECAT Guidance

The National Strategies write materials to support Every Child A Talker (ECAT).  These remain relevant documents and tools to support practitioners and can be downloaded from the links below.
National Strategies ECAT instalments
ECAT tools
These ECAT activities are taken directly from the National Strategies.

Child Monitoring Tool and Action Plan

The child monitoring tool enables practitioners to assess the developmental level of children’s speech, language and communication. It is structured across 4 strands which, although appear separate, are interlinked.  
It is proposed that observations link to the best fit for a child in each strand (see information on the reverse of the tool). The information is to be put onto the overview sheet along with the child’s chronological age in months. The developmental stage needs to be compared to the child’s chronological age to establish if the child is ‘at risk of delay’, ‘as expected’ or ‘ahead’ (see information on the reverse of the tool).  
This is a very powerful and informative tool and should be used on a regular basis to link outcomes to learning language across the provision
Child Monitoring Tool (PDF 41kb)
Child Monitoring Tool Action Plan (Word 32kb)
Child Monitoring Tool Cohort Tracker - for use with PFTS (PDF 12kb)
Frequently Asked Questions

Early Interventions - NHS Partnerships

The NHS early interventions resource has been produced for all professionals supporting children under 5 with their Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN).The menu page includes tools that Early Years Practitioners can use to evaluate children’s early language development.
When a child shows signs of delay in: attention and listening skills, understanding, talking/expressive language or social communication then click on the relevant section and select the age band that matches the child’s developmental level. This will give you general strategies to help and more specific activity ideas to support that area of the child’s language development.
There is also a ‘parents’ section on the menu page which helps you in giving advice to parents on ways to support their child’s development. This includes leaflets that can be printed out and given to parents.
The Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust pathway for 2 year olds with speech, language and communication needs gives further information.

Strategies and Resources

Speech, language and communication strategies

Instructions Make sure children are looking at you before you give out instructions. It helps to signal instructions in some way by saying a rhyme, using actions or a catch phrase.  Click the link to see the full instructions guidance.
Commentary Or pole bridging is a term used for the running commentary that accompanies a child's play. Practitioners provide children with vocabulary within a meaningful context.  Click the link to see more information about how commentary can be used to support children's speech, language and communication.
Modelling Modelling children’s language allows practitioners to correct any grammatical errors that children may make in a positive way. Click the link for guidance on modelling language for young children.
Pausing Children often need lengthy periods of time to consolidate their understanding and create a response to language. Click the link for guidance on using a pausing strategy in your setting to support language development.
Expanding By repeating what a child has said but adding extra vocabulary to a sentence, children’s language can be developed and supported. Click the link for guidance on how to use an expanding strategy in your setting.
Adult / Child Interaction Evaluation This can be used to reflect on adult-child interactions that support children's speech, language and communication. This can be completed by a colleague who has observed your interactions with a child or as a reflective tool for you to use.

The Communication Chain

Key messages and useful strategies to support Early Years practitioners with the development of various aspects of the Communication Chain and to support understanding of how the communication chain can be used.


A chatterbox is a box which contains surprise items. They are put together to encourage children to talk and therefore develop their speech, language and communication skills. Children often want to talk about things that they have already had experiences about and know about therefore it is important to link the contents to children’s interests and previous experiences.   This enables children to make connections in their thinking and language skills by focussing on things that they already understand.

Listen and Learn

The activities contained below aim to support the development of various aspects of the Communication Chain
Playing and having fun in an adult supported and structured session can also be a good way for children to experience and practice skills essential for successful social interaction

Dialogic Book Talk

What is dialogic book talk?
Whilst sharing a story, children often want to talk about things that they recognise, have already had experiences with and know about. Dialogic book talk is a strategy used to allow children to make connections in their thinking and language skills when sharing books by spending time on one page discussing the words or pictures and connecting them to their own lives.
How does it work?
Dialogic book talk is a group activity in which adults and children together develop shared understanding of a book through talk. Ask open-ended questions while reading to children as a way to prompt them to talk about the pictures in the book. Rather than specific “what” questions, also use more general queries that will require the child to answer with more than one word (especially yes and no).
Improving Language Skills through dialogic book talk
It is also helpful to repeat what the child has said and expand their response e.g. Child, “I can see a tree”. Adult, “I can see a tall tree”. This is a great way to encourage and praise children, while introducing new vocabulary.
Opening a book to a random page and reading the illustration offers another literacy tool. Ask what is happening in the illustration. Children can build their own stories with an imaginative look at what they think is happening on the page.
Dialogical book downloads and process example

Partnerships with parents

Speech, Language and Communications parents guide

Practitioners can direct parents/carers to this easily accessible guide,  This resource gives advice on what parent/carers can do and points them in the right direction for other support they may need.

Parent Cards

We all know that sharing information with parents is vital but getting information from parents about their child's achievements at home can be tricky.  Here are some sheets that you could use with a lovely opening line on them which may help parents to give you information that you need.  

Talk Tickets

This is a simple way of encouraging parents to engage with their children in everyday meaningful language

Parent Workshops

These workshops contain tried and tested ideas that will enable you to work in partnership with parents.  The workshops have ideas that can be continued in the setting and in the home to develop children's communication skills.  The resources have been planned to work in any setting - simply download the file and use the session plans as they are or adapt them to suit your setting, children and parents.
Parent Workshop Resources

Parent Posters

The idea of the posters is to give parents evidence of their children’s good speech, language and communication practices, in their own words.  Practitioners work with families to develop a set of posters that show children and their parents communicating in real situations.  The posters carry clear, simple messages and refer to an aspect of learning and development from the EYFS.
Parents featured on the posters act as role models for others to copy their ideas, and reinforce the key message that ‘any time is time to talk’.

Babble Back

The Babble Back campaign was developed in Charnwood to support work with families with children under 2. The campaign aims to provide families with information to help their children learn to smile, listen and eventually talk. The information leaflets support parent partnerships and children’s communication development.

Page Last Updated: 11 May 2016