Children learn to communicate within relationships

There is much emphasis on ‘school readiness’ in England, with measures such as the extent of children’s vocabulary on entry into Reception and the number of words they are able to decode by the end of Year 1.  And yet, research shows that children learn to communicate within enjoyable experiences, and with people, they trust and love (Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University).

The organisation PEEP works with families to support parents and carers with their children’s learning.  PEEP groups aim to support families with their children’s early learning in an enjoyable way, e.g. through music groups.  Groups can be for babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers or mixed age.  They are held in local venues (e.g. health centres, schools or community centres) and are led by a Peep-trained practitioner.

Peep groups are an excellent way for families to make new friends and build relationships. Families meet the same families over a number of weeks. This continuity helps people to build trust in others and feel confident to talk about their own experiences, challenges and ideas.

Peep groups may also be held in the water! In Oxford, for example, Water Peep practitioners focused on movement and communication. Children with physical disabilities and their parents attended.  Practitioners sang songs and used a range of resources, including flannel finger puppets, massage balls and child mirrors, to engage children in their learning. (

At such events, in supportive and enjoyable environments, parents make friends, children communicate with their adults and everyone has fun.  These are optimum conditions for learning!

It is important to note, however, that families are not solely responsible for their children’s development.  Policies can sometimes make it seem as if the responsibility lies primarily with parents, rather than local government.  Theories of brain development are often applied to support these cheaper options (Vanderbrook, 2017), and as Boyle (2016) proposes, discourses such as these can contribute to social inequality.  Children belong to their families, extended families, neighbourhoods, settings, communities and wider ecological systems (Bronfenbrenner, 1979).  All these groups are responsible for the healthy development of the children in their midst.  Childen learn to communicate and participate in society with the help of people who encircle them, including skilled professionals and people who love them.

About the Blogger

profile (1)Dr Sarah Cousins is Director of Early Years Programmes at the Centre for Lifelong Learning. She is a former early years teacher and leader. She worked in a range of settings and schools in London over a period of ten years

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Boyle, C. (2016) ‘Key discourses in early childhood intervention : a case study of an early intervention city’, British Library EThOS, EBSCOhost, viewed 22 August 2018.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979) The ecology of human development: experiments by nature and design. Harvard University Press
Centre on the Developing Child at Harvard University,
Vandenbroeck, M. (2017) Constructions of Neuroscience in early childhood. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.


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