It can be so fun to interact with your child and see them have a good time! But did you know that racing cars, building block towers, and hosting tea parties all involve play skills that are so important for a child’s social and language development? In fact, before a child starts using words consistently to communicate with you, there are several skills he or she may need to learn through play.
Functional Play is playing with toys with their intended purpose. This means if your child has a race car, he pushes it to make it go. Functional play can teach your child cause and effect. For example, if they throw the ball down, it will bounce. If they bang a drum, it will make a sound. Understanding cause and effect is an important precursor to talking! Not only that, but it can help develop a child’s fine motor skills. He or she will need that hand strength and coordination to pick up a block and put it in a shape sorter.
If you’ve ever overheard your child talking for his or her stuffed animals, or having a tea party with some invisible guests, they were actually engaging in what is called Pretend Play. Pretend Play (or Dramatic Play) is just what it sounds like. Your child is imagining that something more is happening that what is actually going on. This type of play can be incredibly beneficial to your child’s language skills. By narrating the scene or speaking the voices for your child’s dolls or action figures, you are modeling how to use words and sentences to communicate and tell a fun story! Your child will likely be encouraged to join in when you do this. And he or she then has the opportunity to learn and use vocabulary words related to the activity! If it’s a pretend picnic, you and your child can name what objects you need and describe the actions you are each doing. If it’s dress-up, you can talk about where each piece of clothing goes or who you are each going to be!
Outdoor and Movement Play
Playing outdoors with a soccer ball or hoola hoop is not only super fun for your child, but it can teach children to make real-life associations with words to help them understand them better! When your child can move, feel, see, and hear a ball as they kick it and you say the work “kick!”, he or she will be interested and receptive to learning what that word means. By engaging in active play like this (versus looking at flashcards), your child’s senses are stimulated and they are ready to learn all of the language you model for them!
Amy Yacoub, MS, CCC-SLP | Speech Pathologist
Proud Member of The Story Box Family