Youngsters who speak English as a second language are set to benefit from a pioneering project to develop their language skills through play.

Around 270 toddlers and their families are due to take part in the scheme after Dagenham charity Community Resources for Change received the £65,000 award from BBC Children In Need last week.

Dr Anne Smith developed the project through her PhD at Queen Mary’s University.

“It’s incredibly exciting to get the funding to do this,” she said.

“There was a huge need for children who sometimes have a rough start in life to play with their parents and develop their language skills and their interpersonal skils, and develop in confidence.”

The funding, which will cover staffings costs over the three years, follows a pilot scheme between Easter and July last year. Up to ten families will attend hour-and-a-half sessions at the charity’s Bennett’s Castle Lane hub over a 12-week period.

“It’s really exciting,” said Dagenham resident Anne, 43, who lives in Bushgrove Road, Dagenham.

“Project workers are exploring different types of activities which children can take away and do at home.”

The idea is that children of refugee and immigrant families will develop in both their native language and English.

“It makes a difference to the children,” said Anne.

“It’s about building confidence and that ability to know what to do with toys and things.”

Anne hopes the effects will be felt far longer than the three-month programme.

“When they are very young, children will mix up the two languages,” she said.

“But if children have got a good grounding, they should very quickly be able to explore in both.”

In particular, the sessions focus on helping parents interact betterwith their children, while youngsters also get some exposure to English before starting school.

Kerry Luker, regional head of London & the South East for BBC Children in Need, said:

“In the months ahead Community Resources for Change will work closely with some of the young people in the area that need it most. To all our fundraisers who have made these grants possible, a very big thank you.”

Community Resources works on projects in Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge and Havering. To register for a free place on the course, call 0208 227 1927.