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Why is Play Important for Language Development in Children?

Compass Points: Small Voice, Big Impact

You've probably heard about the value of play in child development. From peek-a-boo, to hide and seek, to endless giggles and running to catch the ball, play is a critical aspect of the development journey. Play facilitates skills such as problem solving, sharing, flexibility, teamwork, negotiation and specific to language, commenting, requesting, protesting and responding to questions. Play is a covert educational tool for parents and teachers to help develop social emotional, cognitive and physical skills. At Compass Communication, we strive to harness the power of play to boost language development and learning capabilities. Here are a few ways play supports development in the minds of our littlest learners.

Play and Cognition: Engaging the Mind

Play encourages as child to tap their creative function while building and expanding their imagination, exploration, mental flexibility, and cognitive skills such as memory, and coordination. Through play, children can problem solve. Puzzles and blocks allow a child to configure items into different shapes, structures, and encourages reasoning through what works and what doesn't work. Pretend play with peers encourages a child to use their imagination and recall things that they've seen (memory) and imitate them. They imagine they are a certain person/object and must coordinate their actions to match the mental representation of who they are pretending to be.

Home Practice: Playing with Blocks, Puzzles, Playing Dressing up, Cooking/Building/Making Play Sets

Play and Social Emotional Development: Learning to Cooperate

Nothing reminds an adult or child of the spoken (or unspoken) rules of cooperation like a good game. Playing with others teaches children about social interaction and develops their ability to make friends, work together, consider the perspective of others, and how to resolve conflicts. Group play supports cognition, social development, and language because it taps a child's ability to exercise mental flexibility, memory recall, and their ability work within a given set of rules.

Home Practice: Hot Potato, Charades, Family Bingo, Bob the Weasel, What's the Time, Mr. Wolf?, Duck, Duck, Goose, Simon Says.

Play and Physical Development: Moving to Learn

Physical play such as playing catch, skipping, jumping, and dancing can develop motor skills, balance, hand-eye coordination and support overall physical health. Activities that require hand-eye coordination such as playing catch, chasing butterflies, catching fireflies, and popping bubbles can enhance lateral thinking and technical abilities.

Home Practice: Blow and Catch Bubbles, Summertime Catching Fireflies, Build a home indoor obstacle course, Playing Catch.

Play and Language Development: Talking and Playing

Last but certainly not least, language development! Each of the aforementioned areas include language-- whether it's the use of a pretend play activity, playing a cooperative game, or playing tag outdoors, each component presents an opportunity to practice understanding spoken language and using language. As children, play they verbalize their actions and narrate scenarios. This provides your budding communicator with ample opportunity for language practice in a fun way. Children can learn new words and phrases from peers and have opportunities to practice forming sentences that express their thoughts, make protests and express agreement.

Home Practice: Pretend Play of "Grocery Store" where children pretend to be a shopkeeper and another pretends to be the customer. This is a real-life applicable scenario and gives children opportunity to expand categorical and social vocabulary.

Final Thoughts

It is important to advocate for the integration of play into daily learning activities as it is essential for the holistic development of toddlers and children. Parents and educators can incorporate play not just as a form of bonding and entertainment, but as a vital educational tool.

Your Partners in Navigating the Journey of Speech and Language

Compass Communication Group


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