As the month of May and Better Speech and Hearing Month are coming to an end (umm, hello summer!) I’d like to introduce the theme for We Say Play’s second blog post ( hint: I love it SO much that it is the inspiration and number one "must do" for my private practice). You guessed it…PLAY!
If you thought play was just something your child did during down time or before they got to the “real” academic stuff in school, think again.
Why is play so important for speech language development and your child’s overall growth and development? Because as Jean Piaget so beautifully put it “ play is the work of childhood”. It is quite literally the way children experience the world around them, how they process it, how they experiment with what they observe and how they reveal to us the contents of their minds even before they are able to put their ideas into words . As my brilliant professor and previous clinical supervisor, Dr. Sima Gerber Ph.D., CCC-SLP taught, if you want to know what the child knows, look at what the child does. In fact, the play expert, Dr. Carol Westby explains that play is “a means of expression and a means of interpretation.” It is an avenue for trial and error, experimentation and deeper understanding with a child's whole body and mind. My favorite part about the idea of working with children through play, is it provides the perfect context to follow their lead, validate their ideas and expand upon those ideas and provide rich, contextually-based language models. Every session is different and meaningful to the child, without them even realizing that there’s more at work than just plain old fun!
Here are some quick tips to make play with your child more meaningful and fruitful for their speech and language development:
1. Follow their lead: set up the environment so your child has easy access to their favorite toys and let the magic unfold from there.
2. Join in their excitement: affective based learning is integral for a child's development and so important that it's going to have it's own blog post! But simply put, use your facial expressions and tone of your voice to match the emotion of the play.
3. Stay in the moment: as adults, it can be difficult for us to play without an agenda or a plan, trust in your little one's imagination and see where it takes you.
4. Less is more: One of my biggest suggestions to parents playing with their children is to do less. Less talking, less asking, less showing. Provide language models to describe what your doing in THAT moment. Try to limit 'wh' questions. Here's an example, if you're building a tower with blocks and you have a two year old with expressive language delay, you might model "up, up, up.....crash!!" Rather than, "What color is this?" "Where's the doggy?" "What are you gonna do next?" See the difference? The models you do provide will be so rich, meaningful and intentional that they will not go unnoticed by your child.
5. HAVE FUN
I always feel so lucky that play is such an important aspect of development because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to take trips to the moon, give a beloved giraffe medicine, or play endless games of “I’m gonna get you!”
All in a day’s work.
Feel free to contact me here if you have any questions about the importance of play and how to incorporate it into your every day life with your children or clients. Until next time!