Play is important for children as it helps them to make sense of the world, learn social skills and communicate effectively with others. As children learn best through play, play can be used to enhance the learning of speech and language skills in fun and supportive contexts.
5 Strategies to Develop Language Through Play
Here are five strategies to help your child develop language skills through play:
Let your child take the lead — you can let your child choose an activity that he/she is interested in. There will be more opportunities for language learning when your child is engaged in the activity.
Model language — speak clearly and use the correct grammar when speaking with your child. If your child pronounces a word incorrectly, you do not have to correct them, just say the word back correctly to show that you have understood him/her.
Observe and comment — when playing with your child, do not feel that you have to fill the silences. Just take a step back, observe and comment about what you or your child is doing so that they can learn new vocabulary.
Take Turns — turn-taking can help your child to develop social and communication skills. Activities such as board games can provide opportunities for your child use language to initiate turn-taking. You can use body language (eye contact, gestures) and ask questions to prompt for turn-taking.
Allow for repetition— repetition of the same activity can help to build mastery and refine the skills that the child has developed. As children learn language through repetition, it is useful to use the same games, songs and books repeatedly, particularly those that they enjoy.
Play Activity: Small World Play
Small world play enables your child to act out stories using small objects as play props to represent real-life objects. You can ask your child to design their small world. Water, sand, leaves, flowers can be included to make the play more sensory and interesting. Here’s what you need to do to get started:
Decide on your theme — the theme should be familiar to your child and something that he/she is interested in. You can build a farm, school or city or even a fairy land or dinosaur world.
Collect your materials— children love to be involved in looking for items to create the small world. You can house the small world in a box and build the small world with things you already have at home such as plants, pebbles and toys. Encourage your child to talk about what they are including in the small world, why they have chosen these items and where these items are going to be placed.
Acting out stories — acting out stories in the small world is a good way for your child to develop language skills in a meaningful context. If you build a farm, potential story ideas can be about the feeding of animals in the farm or cleaning the barns. You can facilitate language learning for your child by introducing new words and expanding on his/her sentences during play.
What are social skills and why are they important?
Social skills are the skills we need to get along with others. They include greetings, eye contact and turn-taking as well as the ability to have a conversation, persuade, negotiate, solve conflict and work collaboratively. Children with language difficulties often need explicit teaching of social skills.
It is important for children to develop good peer relationships in childhood as research has linked this to positive adolescent and adult mental health. Children with appropriate social skills are more likely to be active participants in classroom activities and are more independent learners.
Explicit teaching of social skills often begins with building children’s awareness of non-verbal skills in the following way:
Praise appropriate eye contact (e.g. ‘I like the way you looked at me when you said hello’)
Encourage your child to look at people when they are talking
Use visual cues as a reminder (e.g. A picture of an eye)
Talk about how close to stand to different people – this can include talking about safety and social circles (e.g. that it’s ok to hug mum and dad but not strangers)
Talk about giving our friends room when talking to them or sitting next to them
Reminders about sitting too close (or on other children!)
If wanting to gain the attention of a friend – be gentle, try to use your words
Use any games where your child needs to wait for their turn. Example of games include stacking games, sorting games, puzzles or rolling a ball
Praise your child when they wait for their turn
Gradually increase the amount of time they need to wait between turns
Observe your child for a while if you notice they do not use some of these skills easily then find some opportunities to reinforce them during everyday interaction. For example, encourage eye contact when greeting grandparents or friends who come to visit, play board games and card games as a family to encourage turn taking.
Thank you to everyone for their participation in the Oral Language /Speech Team’s DLD Day Colouring-In Competition. We have enjoyed looking at all the creative work produced. There was lots of discussion about the use of colour (particularly the DLD colours of purple and yellow) the addition of creative elements, the care taken with colouring inside the lines without leaving white showing through and the effort demonstrated. The judging was very challenging but we have selected our winners and the list is below.
This week is a very exciting week for Fremantle Language Development Centre and the Oral Language (Speech) Team. On Friday the 16th of October the Oral Language Team will be supporting DLD Awareness Day by running a colouring in competition for students and sharing information with the wider community about DLD. DLD stands for Developmental Language Disorders. Fremantle Language Development Centre was established specifically to support students with DLD which is why all students are assessed by a speech pathologist before being offered a place in our centre.
Children with DLD have difficulty talking and understanding language and this cannot be explained by another diagnosis such as hearing impairment. DLD can impact on children’s day-to-day communication and their ability to access information in a classroom. It can also make it more difficult to learn to read and write. At Fremantle LDC we support our students to develop both language and literacy skills by using a very explicit approaches to teaching. We explicitly teach things such as vocabulary, sentence structure and sound and letter pattern correspondences. Among many other strategies we also use visual cues and short simple sentences when presenting information to support students’ understanding. We give children plenty of time to respond to questions to help them organise their ideas before speaking.