Communication and Interaction in the Early Years

(Consider EYFS Communication and Language)


What do you observe?

      1. Child needs support in understanding others – this may be in understanding of or in processing spoken language.

      2. Child needs support in expressing themselves – this may be with fluency of speech in forming sounds and words or in expressing their thoughts and ideas clearly.

      3. Child’s level of communication skills may limit participation in activities and social communication and interaction with peers.

      4. The child’s language and communication difficulties may lead to frustration or emotional and behavioural difficulties.

      5. Some children may need support with social interaction.

      6. They may struggle with attention and listening, social understanding and may need support to develop flexibility in thought and behaviour.

      7. Child has a special interest/fascination that overshadows other experiences on offer in the setting e.g. spinning toys, pouring water, dinosaur play.

What can adults do?
    • Use the child’s name before communicating. Use visual prompts to support communication.
    • Provide narrative to the child’s play.
    • Observe child’s interests to identify if there is a trigger to the child’s actions (is the child anxious, sensitive to sound/light/temperature etc.)
    • Mirror the child’s play to show that it is valued.
    • View their interest/s as a way to introduce new ideas to extend the play e.g. when a child’s interest is pouring water - use a cup to catch the water – adult model pretending to drink.
    • Use the interest as a motivator for the child to try new interests e.g. ‘now puzzle, next dinosaurs’.
    • If the fascination interferes with or stops the play of other children, introduce a time limit to the play using visual prompts.
    • Take time to talk to the parents – does the child have the same interests at home?
    • Provide a wide range of resources and space for the child to further develop their interests.
    • Audit the environment and make changes where possible if the environment has been identified as a trigger to behaviours e.g. change flickering lightbulbs; reduce noise by providing quieter more relaxing areas;
Tools and Resources
You observe the child shows little or no interest in the play of other children.

What can you do?

    • Play alongside the child – name other children nearby.

    • Provide narrative about similar play of other children e.g. Lily pouring, Jack pouring.

    • Model interactions with other children – ‘hello Jamal’ ‘do you want a bucket?’ ‘Jamal’s bucket, Jack’s bucket’.

    • Model and offer suggestions e.g. ‘Anna give spade to Jamal…Jack give bucket to Jamal’.

    • Use natural gesture, pointing, simple signing, pictures, photos to support any communication.

    • Provide duplicate/similar resources for shared interests.

Tools / Resources

You observe the child misinterprets actions of peers, resulting in physical actions and children getting hurt.

What can adults do?

    • Use STAR observations to identify triggers e.g. when the noise level rises in the setting; when a child has a specific favourite toy; when a child is crying/upset, when children are running around, when children are too close.
    • Ensure adults are aware of child’s actions and potential triggers and there is an adult nearby to lessen/prevent physical incidents occurring. Reflect on STAR observations to understand the emotions underlying the actions.
    • Model play alongside the child.
    • Use simple language (if appropriate), to explain e.g. ‘Jamal’s car, Jack wait’. Use visual prompts such as large sand timer/gel timer.
    • Anticipate the trigger and use distraction to avoid physical interactions.
    • Talk about feelings out loud e.g. ‘Jack doesn’t like it when people stand too close at the water tray’.
    • Promote and facilitate problem solving with children. ‘What might help Jack to feel safe/happy again?’
    • Provide quiet areas as an alternative to the more active areas.
    • Maintain the highest ratio of adults to children as possible within your setting budget. (Once triggers are identified and understood staffing may be able to be reduced).


You observe the child has a special interest/fascination that causes distress to peers e.g. hair-pulling/pushing other children over.

What can adults do?

    • Use STAR observations to identify if there are specific triggers to the actions e.g. favourite shampoo smells, long hair, a child with a similar interest, children running etc.
    • Co-play to help prevent negative interactions.
    • Name actions and associated emotions e.g. ‘Billy wants to stroke Ava’s hair…Billy, Ava sad’. Continue to commentate on the situation to help both children ‘Billy likes Ava’s hair, Ava says stop’. Billy will begin to understand that hair pulling is not acceptable, Ava will learn that she can say ‘stop’ or ‘no’ in situations that she is not happy with.
    • Distract the child to a positive alternative activity e.g.
    • Provide dolls with hair to distract the child.
    • If setting animals are available encourage stroking actions.
    • If smell is a stimulus find out what the favourite smells are and use these on dolls hair e.g. coconut shampoo.
    • If movement is a stimulus be prepared to use distraction as soon as children start running around.
    • If similar interests are known, use distraction with resources for both children e.g. ‘Jack’s ball, Lilly’s ball’.
    • Discuss with parent ‘does the child have the same interest at home?’
    • Provide emotional support to both children involved.

Tools / Resources

You observe the child shows little or no interest in pretend play

What can adults do?

    • Once a relationship has been developed with the child they may be responsive to a familiar adult introducing simple pretend play, for example modelling new play with familiar objects e.g. pretending to fill a favourite car with ‘petrol’. Pretending to drink from a cup that the child normally uses for spinning. ![pic](
    • Use simple signs and gesture to support play ideas.
    • Plan time to partner play.
    • Duplicate resources that the child prefers to play with – one for the adult, one for the child.
    • Be a playful partner for the child.
    • Plan time for the child’s key person to support play alongside the child.

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