Tracey Park and Lisa Houghton definitely feel it’s good to talk.
No matter how young you are.
And the pair certainly have plenty to talk positively about; the Lytham business they set up, helping children to learn to communicate clearly through play, now has 25 franchises across the country.
Talking Tots has grown and grown, but the friends still run their regular Thursday morning classes in Lytham, at the Assembly Rooms.
The idea behind the sessions is the fact that children who can communicate clearly and confidently have a huge headstart when it comes to learning, making friends and expressing themselves.
Having both worked as paediatric speech and language therapists for many years in the NHS, the pair know and understand children learn best through play.
The Talking Tots programme combines games, songs, rhymes and fun activities, to gently boost children’s communication and social skills.
Tracey said: “We started the sessions in 2005, in Lytham on a Thursday morning, and they just took off.
“In the back of our minds, we did want to franchise Talking Tots and after a lot of research and hard work, we started doing that.
“Now we have 25 franchises and it’s just going from strength-to-strength.
“We think we offer quite a unique pre-school session – there are other music classes, swimming, yoga and so on, but nothing quite the same as Talking Tots.
“We now have franchises as far afield as Kent and Essex. We are thrilled – we are a bit evangelical about it, as we believe it really helps make a difference for the children.”
And it seems Talking Tots, which caters for children aged one to three, and its work could be increasingly important. Lisa said: “Teachers were telling us children arriving in reception classes often struggled with basic social skills such as listening to instructions, or taking part in group activities.”
Tracey said: “The children are having fun, so they’re learning without realising it.
“There are so many benefits. The children learn from an early age about eye contact, about attention, about sharing, about listening.
“It’s fantastic for helping with literacy skills and boosting social confidence.
“Research shows 40 per cent of the poorest children in the UK are leaving primary school unable to read.”
Tracey says there are a whole host of complex reasons and theories about why communication within families and with young children may not be what it used to be in modern 21st century life. But she says she believes technology is still an important tool.
“We feel it’s great to watch a bit of TV or have a play on the iPad, but limit it – just one programme or 20 minutes on a game and then switch it off. And talk. And read together.”
Talking Tots will be supporting a national campaign Read on, Get On to encourage more people to read, with a Back to Books Week, November 3 until 7. The aim is to get children reading well by the age of 11 and the pair say just 10 minutes of reading a day with a child can make a big difference.
For more information, call (01253) 735355 or visit www.talkingtots.info.