Speech Pathology News: Play

Learning Through Play

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.