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Our Approach

#971 Springboard Boxes – supporting early language development in the home

Megan Parsons

What did we do?

As a member of the Community Communication Champions Team, working in the University and Wensum Wards, I helped deliver a variety of projects and initiatives aimed at improving children’s early speech, language and communication (SLC) skills by working with parents, carers, community groups, schools and settings.

One of these initiatives was the provision of Springboard Boxes. The boxes were included within the Home Learning Programme (HLP) strand of the Community Communication Champions (CCCs) project. Parents who participated in an Elklan ‘Let’s Talk at Home’ course with their children and attended at least 4 out of 6 sessions received the box as a gift to keep at the end of the course. The box contained 21 toys/items. My role included working with Elklan to choose which toys/items would be included in the boxes and then demonstrating how these could be used to promote and benefit communication during sessions and at home.

The Elklan courses were delivered across both the University and Wensum Wards and Mile Cross and Catton Grove Wards, supported by 4 CCCs.

“The box is perfect, there is such a great range of stuff in the boxes.”

“Everything is very helpful, really good to use it how we did on the course, with all the tips.”

Feedback from parents.

Summary of impact

Working closely with schools and settings within the Wensum and University areas of Norwich to provide advice and support to the parents of early years children raised awareness about the importance of SLC development and the benefits of a supportive home learning environment.

All the CCCs found that feedback gained from parents with regards to the Springboard Boxes was overwhelmingly positive, with various items being mentioned as particularly useful. Favourites included: Duplo, Mr Potato Head, books, balls, play dough ingredients, ideas for play laminated cards and our own Springboard Box guide. Some parents even said that the box itself had turned into a great resource, having been used as a boat, a house and a treasure chest!

However, researchers from the UEA who carried out a detailed evaluation of the CCCs project only found 15 parents, out of 82 families who benefited from the initiative, willing to give more formal feedback on the Springboard Boxes. Consequently, they felt it was hard to draw any lasting conclusions about the impact of the boxes based on parental feedback. The item that featured most in feedback to the researchers was Playdough, with a third of parents identifying it as the resource that their child enjoyed the most and the resource that encouraged the most communication from their children.

Please see the CCCs Big Idea for more information on the impact and outcomes for the whole CCCs project. “The Community Communication Champions in Norwich: An Evaluation“, written by the UEA, is included in the resources section of the CCCs Big Idea and reflects in detail on the impact of each aspect of the CCC project including the provision of Springboard Boxes as part of the HLP.

Steps taken

Initially I sent out emails to all schools/settings within the Wensum and University wards and I asked if I could arrange a meeting with them to further discuss how we could work together. Schools and settings could access a wide range of support tools and interventions offered by Norwich Opportunity Area (NOA), including the Elklan ‘Let’s Talk at Home’ Course. I helped recruit suitable parents onto the course and supported Elklan tutors to deliver course activities, including demonstrating the use of resources, that would eventually make up the Springboard Box, to promote SLC skills.

Initially it was difficult to decide on what items should be included within the Springboard Boxes. We had to make sure that every item was suitable for children aged 0-2, which is challenging when lots of resources are listed as 3+. Each of the resources in the box were chosen for their ability to encourage speech, language and communication within the home environment and were therefore, often open-ended. The choices were made in conjunction with Elklan tutors and the founder of Elklan, Henrietta McLachlan.

We created a leaflet to go inside the box (download available on CCCs Big Idea page), to give parents an understanding of how each resource could be used to encourage their child’s SLC development. This was a positive addition to the final product, as it ensured that each family understood the Springboard Box contents and how to use it in guided play. We also ensured that the Springboard Box resources were used within the Elklan sessions so that parents had the chance to learn how to make the most of the resources in practice, before being gifted them.

What would we do differently

One of the main challenges with the box was its physical size and weight, which meant that it could not be handed over to the parents to take away on the last day of the Elklan course. Instead, a CCC had to undertake a visit to each home to drop them off in the subsequent weeks and they were difficult to load/unload from cars. This made it an additional time burden to the CCCs.

Another challenge we faced was deciding which items to keep or replace, after each round of training, as the feedback from parents was so varied. Some parents loved the items that other parents didn’t find as beneficial, and some parents felt there was too much included and would have preferred a more condensed version. We knew that children learn in different ways and have different interests, so it made sense that the resources that engaged one child, would not necessarily engage another.

Direct comments to UEA researchers from parents exposed mixed views too. Some indicated that they did not need or did not have space for such a large quantity of items. One parent explained that she would keep one or two items and donate the rest to her pre-school who had been such valuable support to her family.

At a cost of just under £150 per box, it is unlikely that such an initiative would be sustainable longer term. The UEA researchers expressed that alternative approaches could have been explored and these may have distributed the benefits even more widely. For example, providing a smaller gift, of maybe one or two items from the box, chosen by the parent and child.

One idea the CCC team came up with, following completion of a couple of cycles of the HLP, was the creation of a ‘Practitioners Box’ that could be given to community leaders who undertook cascade training, with a view to maintaining a commitment to the continued and extended provision of SLC activities throughout our target wards.

The plan for the box was to include a collection of resources designed to enable a setting or practitioner to offer superior quality play experiences to a larger number of families. This seemed a promising investment for the future and an idea that could be tailored to suit the needs of the individual setting or practitioner.

Whilst the CCC team unfortunately did not have the time or capacity to action this idea within the lifecycle of the project, Norfolk County Council are currently working on a similar strand of work that will eventually see a county-wide roll out of play supporting resources for settings and families.


All funding for the CCCs project and resources was provided by the NOA. Each box cost just under £150.

See how others have implemented this Big Idea

ELKLAN - Let's Talk at Home Course