‘Let’s play’, the magic phrase in my profession. Being a speech therapist, play and communication are like inseparable siblings to me. They are always together. Children are naturally drawn to the experience of play, which makes my work fun. It is important for the child, because it is through play, they develop their interests, social-emotional skills, motor skills, understanding and language.
Playing with your children is a self-discovery of your inner child. It makes you think of creative ways to engage them, hold their attention, build your relationship, communicate and most importantly have fun!.
The reason I decided to write about ‘playing with your child’ is because of the lack of it in today’s time. Today, playing exemplifies interactive media where children spent more time communicating with i-pads, smart phones and other visual media than real people. I am not against these, but age and moderation is the key. Nevertheless, I am happy to be part of an evolving group, which believes in bringing back play and communication to its organic level.
THE DEVELOPMENTAL STAGES OF PLAY:
Infants to Toddlers (birth to 3+ years)– My most loved developmental stage, because this is what I’ve experienced and is experiencing right now. Everyday, you uncover a different layer of your child.
Play during these ages are mainly Onlooker play, Solitary play and Parallel play (Mildred Parten, 1932). Onlooker play is the earliest form of play, when children watches other children play and do not make an attempt to join in.
Solitary play means the child plays alone with their own toys. This kind of play should be encouraged, because it helps builds their independence in later life. This does not mean, you should leave them alone most of the time. It’s about balance. Usually, after I play with my daughter, I let her explore and play on her own with the toys. Interestingly, she tries to play, use her language and gestures and spices it up with her own version. This is the outcome of her earlier play experience with me.
Parallel play means that, children continue to play on their own, but they are beside other children and may be using the same toys. During this time, they begin to imitate language and behavior of others and engage in make- believe play (Mc Lean et al., 1996).
Preschoolers (3 to 5+ years)– With the development of their language and cognitive skills, children engage in Associative play, Cooperative play and Games with rules (Mildred Parten, 1932).
Associative play is the time when children truly begin to play with others. They start sharing their items and develop their own story line.
As the word suggests, Cooperative play is the highest form of play when children play in groups, cooperate as a team and take turns. Games with rules is a part of cooperative play when children are able to abide and make rules in the game.
HOW CAN I USE PLAY TO FACILITATE LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT?
Give your time– Make time to play with your child. It’s a good stress buster to just play, be present and forget about the things that don’t really matter. Playing is great for your mental well- being, because it brings back fond memories of your childhood and you are instantly transported to those good times.
Follow your child’s lead– I have mentioned this before, and it is worth mentioning again. Always follow your child’s interests or actions. This makes the experience more rewarding, because your child is ready to engage with you. So keep your agenda to the side and follow theirs.
Read Books– Please Click here to read my blog post about reading to your children.
Be a good model– Yes, we should all be a good model to ourselves and the people around us. In this case, modeling language to your child exposes them to vocabulary and correct grammar while speaking. Use meaningful and simple words with your child. For e.g. If the child is playing and says ‘Car’. Respond by saying ‘ Yes, a big car/Car, go!/ Car says vrooom’.
Sing songs– The most enjoyable activity in my household. My daughter loves listening to songs and lately does dance moves to match the song. It’s fun to watch, because if the song is slow, she is slow like a swan. But if the song has beats, then she is playing on her drums and jumping around. Did we ever teach her that? Nope. She figured it out herself.
Singing songs is a great interactive and fun way to learn language. Include all the well known rhymes like ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star/ Row , row, row your boat’. This helps in learning new vocabulary, repetition and turn taking. For e.g. After a couple of repetitions of the song, try to pause at the end of the song or in the middle. Twinkle, twinkle, little ……, how I wonder what you ……You will be surprised to hear a word, sound or even an action from your child. Whatever the attempt, make a big deal about it.
So there you have it! Day to day play activities to boost language in your child.
Albert Einstein said ‘Play is the highest form of research’.
Let’s be part of our children’s occupation. Let’s make their lives fun-filled and playful, so looking back they only have sweet memories of their childhood.
Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post. Have a lovely break and enjoy the Dubai weather.