In my last post, I wrote about the benefits of using a play-based therapy approach for children with speech and language delays. In case you missed it, here is the link 'Why Play is The Way'. Play presents endless opportunities for learning and there are many skills which can be stimulated. You may be thinking, ‘where do I start?’
Below are five speech-language related skills to focus on during play:
1. Speech Sounds
Model speech sounds to your child based on what they are playing with. For instance, if your child holds up a toy rabbit, you can model the ‘r’ sound to your child. Using emphasis and repetition to make your child more aware of this sound, as well as its correct production.
Another great way to stimulate speech sounds during play is by making noises which reflect the play situation. For instance, if your child is holding a toy car, you can make a car noise (e.g. “broom broom”) to stimulate the ‘b’, ‘r’ and ‘m’ sounds.
2. Receptive & Expressive Language
Use play as an opportunity to strengthen your child’s understanding of basic concepts. For instance, you can describe what is happening during play or even model actions with toys which demonstrate the meaning of the words ‘in’, ‘out’, ‘under’, ‘big’, ‘small’ and so forth.
Play provides the perfect opportunity to teach your child new vocabulary. This works best when you introduce new words to your child which reflect the play situation. Again, you can use repetition and emphasis over several play sessions with your child. When doing so, your child is likely to start imitating these words, and eventually they will say them spontaneously.
3. Language Foundation:
When children engage in ‘pretend-play’, they learn to use toys as symbols for real objects. Similarly, adults use words as symbols for real objects when we use language. Because of this, play is the foundation of language. To facilitate your child’s language foundation, encourage them to play with toys such as, dolls, cars, tea-sets, toy food, toy animals and so forth.
Show your child that toys can be used as symbols for other real-life objects which they do not necessarily represent. For instance, during play a piece of paper can be used as a ‘blanket’ and a spoon can be used as a ‘hair brush’. By using substitution in play, you are encouraging your child to use their imagination.
5. Sequencing and Expansion:
Try to expand and sustain play so that it is comprised of more than one event. For instance, if your child is playing with a toy truck, the ‘sequence of events’ could include:
1) the truck picking up objects such as blocks
2) the truck driving to a construction site
3) the truck then unloading the objects
4) the objects being used for construction
Other events reflected in play include having a tea party or visiting the doctor. By expanding play into a sequence of events, your child is learning to sustain their attention to a single task for longer time periods as well as developing a greater understanding of the world around them.
Play presents endless opportunities for your child to develop a wide range of skills, such as those discussed in this post. When stimulating your child’s skills during play, remember to keep it fun - because after all, it is play!
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