** Disclaimer: When referring to “parents”, I am referring to parents, grandparents, or guardians. **
I am sure we have all heard that children learn through play. But, how seriously have we taken this statement? Did we realize that it applies to all areas of learning, especially speech development? It is important that children play, but it is crucial that the parents play and communicate with their children as well. Through playing, children not only develop gross motor skills, but they learn how to communicate with others through social skills. Play is extremely important to a child’s development!
According to Playing with Words 365, there are five ways children learn speech through play: watch, listen, explore, imitate, and create.
PhotoCC- By U.S. Army
A child is always watching and taking in their surroundings. From the time they are born, children watch their parent’s facial expressions and the way their parent’s mouths move when talking. As the child gets older, they pay attention to their parent’s or sibling’s body language and the actions they are performing.
While they are watching, children are also listening to the sounds and words parents are saying. Again, this starts from birth and even before. After children have listened to their parents enough and have reached certain developmental stages, the words they say will start to make sense to them. While the parents are playing with their children, they are allowing the children to make connections to the meanings of the words and sounds.
Exploring is where play is put into action. They explore and play with anything and everything they can get their hands on. While the child is playing, the parent should be playing with them, talking with them, and demonstrating play. In turn, the child is watching and listening to the parent and will soon repeat the parent’s actions. When playing, use words such as “on, in, out, beside etc.” and place the objects as you are using the words, that way, the child will pick up the meaning of those words and the actions as well. Exploring also happens with siblings and peers as well.
All of the watching, listening, and exploring will soon turn to imitating the viewed actions and sounds/ words that the child hears and sees. This is also where the gross motor skills such as clapping, waving, moving, etc. starts to happen. The gross motor skills are a very important aspect to language. When it comes to imitating speech, the rhymes, stories, and plays all impact the child and attribute to teaching them language.
All of the skills previously talked about are going to help your child begin to create and form their own words and sentences. When a child is able to form words and sentences, they will use their language for a purpose and start to voice their needs and wants. The child will then learn to communicate their language through play with parents, siblings, peers and by themselves. Their play allows them to create and form new ideas that they are able to share through their language. The more they play, the more they learn.
Here is a video that shines some insight on play and how it impacts language and social skills.