Play, Play, Play!
Merriam-Webster defines play as “a recreational activity, especially the spontaneous activity of children.” As children are growing and exploring their environments, play is how they learn. You could even think of it as play is a child’s occupation. As a Speech Language Pathologist I use play every day to help build and expand upon social, speech and language skills of the children I see. I wanted to share some tips with parents and caregivers to help you engage your children in play to build upon their skills. I have also attached a link to videos from a Speech Therapist I follow on YouTube. She gives many, many suggestions on how to use different toys and items you may already have at home to engage your child in play and build speech and language skills.
Get down on the floor
It is very important that you are on the same level as your child while you are playing. Your child will be able to follow visual cues when you are down on their level. This will in turn build their imitation skills with actions, facial movements, sounds and eventually words. They will be able to see your mouth and face as you are producing sounds such as “moo” and “baa’’ as you play with a barn and farm animals. Being on their level will grab their attention. Sitting on the floor with them will keep them engaged with you for longer periods of time.
Listen and be responsive
It is our natural response to ask our children many questions while we are playing. “What is this?” and “What does a cow say?” This can put pressure and demands on the child making it more like work than play. Instead, try commenting and responding to what the child is doing. For example, as the child is playing with a toy barn and animals “The cow says moo” or “The horse is running.”
Follow the lead of the child
Children will be more likely to engage and play if it is something THEY are interested in. When I am getting to know a new kiddo during an initial evaluation, I always ask the care giver to tell me what the child likes to do or play with at home. If they are really into truck and cars right now, then I will gather some of those toys to have during our first session together.
Have fun, be silly, laugh
As a busy mom with two children of my own I know that our days are full of fixing meals, running errands, etc. Sometimes adding one more thing to our agenda seems overwhelming. Try to think of this time with your child as fun and meaningful, not a chore. You are building the foundation for your child to continue to grow, learn and communicate effectively in their environment.
Also, check out this link for videos for play with different toys and objects parents have at home!
– Erin Sarver, M.S., CCC-SLP
Definition of Play from Merriam Webster Dictionary