Playing With Purpose

We believe parent-involvement is crucial in early childhood development. We understand that sometimes it can be a bit confusing knowing where to start. This is why we wanted to provide you with some specific ideas to encourage speech and language development within your child. We hope they inspire you to get involved!

Begin by following your child’s lead. This means, wait and watch without speaking. Once they have shown you what they want to do, follow their lead by joining in the best you can. Next, let them know you are not there to tell them what to do. This reassures them that they can do what they like while feeling comfortable and supported. You will want to respond to everything your child is doing and make yourself fully available to them. It is important to accept communication in any form, accepting all purposeful actions as a social interactive pattern. Lastly, get down to their level and face them. This allows your child to make eye contact with you, feel connected, and learn from your facial expressions, actions, and words. 

*We want to make communication an enjoyable, fun, stress-free experience versus a requirement.*

Pretend play is a huge component of language development. 

Tips:

  • Model the words you are saying. For example, if you are blowing bubbles, say, “more bubbles!” while blowing them to your child.
  • Challenge them to generate a gesture, vocalization, or expression to ecourage their expansion in expressive language.
  • Give your child time to think and initiate but not too much time where you lose their interest. (The more they have to think and come up with language, the more confident they will become in using it.)
  • When your child shows interest in an object, do not overly focus on its appropriate use (ex. a maraca to make music). Instead, use it as an opportunity to focus on the interaction itself by making it silly and animated. It is okay if your child is not using the maraca in the “appropriate” way because our goal is to build a positive interaction.
  • Gestures and nonverbal language are crucial for later developing pragmatic language. You can model the verbal language around his gestures frequently so your child hears the verbal component to their idea (ex: when he is trying to open a toy, you can model the “open box/raisins/etc” verbally).

Activity Ideas: 

  • Place highly preferred items out of reach or in tightly sealed containers to create opportunities where your child needs to use gestures to request what it is they want/need. This will facilitate communication (not making it too easy). Acknowledge any form of communication (sound, sign, gesture).
  • Use Cloze passages. You may start singing a song (real or made up that relates to the experience) and leave a word out, giving your child a few seconds to respond to you in some way.
  • Play sound games in the mirror to promote oral motor coordination and development. You can blow kisses, raspberries, sneeze, lick, etc. See if your child will imitate you, you can also imitate them. You may also add in closing your eyes, hiding behind your hands, and other things to get them copying you or vice versa.
  • Shaving cream is a fun and easy play idea that offers many ways to expand:
  1. Give plastic figures, blocks, or even laminated pictures a bath. Spray the objects with shaving cream and use water to clean the animals/objects. Your child can use a paintbrush, spoon, their hands, or paper towels to clean them with your help!
  2. Draw with the shaving cream on a flat, easy to clean surface (playfully pretending you need their help). You can make ABCs, familiar pictures or simple shapes. 
  • Play games in unison with singing and songs. For example, “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” (with spiders crawling on his body), OR “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” This will also be an activity that promotes your child’s body awareness and motor planning. 
  • If your child enjoys playing in the water with you during bath time this can be a great oppourtunity to play together. Utilize cups, paintbrushes, etc., to create new fun in the bath. 
  • Hide characters from them and then use your affect to help the child find them. (Affect is your emotional response to an interaction.) Exaggerate your emotions. Include voices that are exciting, silly, scared, and sad to draw them into various interactions and ideas.
  • Hide in new and varied places that require your child to move objects, climb over an obstacle, or move their body through various positions. Think of ways to add one more small step or challenge for them to find you. (Give your child visual clues for harder spots with a body part hanging out or make silly sounds.)
  • Pop bubbles with new objects – use stuffed animals, objects around the house, etc. Model the new idea for her and use affect to entice your child to want to join. Add different silly sounds with each bubble you pop and challenge your child to use different body parts to pop them while moving their body.