Use Play to Nurture Child’s Communication and Language Development

Everyone has a job. When we were young, our job was to study and learn new knowledge and skills. After we graduate from school or university, we start to work. Do you ever wonder what a child's job is? A child’s job is to eat, play and sleep. Play is not only having leisure or fun, indeed play is very important for children’s development.

PLAY is a platform of learning new skills and practising learnt skills from all the developmental aspects including cognition, physical or motor skills, communication, language, speech and social emotion. It also serves as a platform for socialising with others in a relaxed and fun way. Hence the FUN factor is crucial for a quality play. Besides practising and enhancing motor strength and function, improving life skills, building up self-esteem, relating to the world and others, play shows a lot of benefits in promoting communication, language, speech and social skills.


HOW DO WE PLAY IN A THERAPEUTIC WAY

The therapy outcome is the best within naturalistic settings i.e. daily life situation including play. Play can be as simple as chasing each other, tickling and can be as structured as board games or group games with rules. For more details on types of play and the play ideas, you may read another article on “Types of Play”.

To make the most from the play between you and your child, use the strategies recommended below to promote communication, language and speech development:

1. Play naturally and have fun together

· Children learn the best in the enjoyable environment. Introduce the play/games to your child as if you are sharing a good game with your friend. We ourselves have to feel that it is fun to play this game when inviting our child to join us.


2. Use singsong voice and be animated

· Children respond and learn well with rhythms. When we use a singsong voice, naturally we are highlighting the important information, thus making it easier to be comprehended. Be animated when you talk helps to make the play fun.


3. Say your instruction in a clearly sequenced manner (break-down the steps as necessary)

· some of our children may not understand long instruction. Even as an adult, when we play a new board game, we need to read the instruction, understand by breaking down the steps. Our children are the same as us. They need us to break down the steps involved in the games in clear sequence.


4. Use visual cues to aid understanding

· If your child does not understand the instruction even after you break them down in specific steps, aid his understanding using visual cues.

· Watch how we use visual aid in Simon Says games https://youtu.be/HTqAXHafNoE


5. Talk along your play

· Talk about your child’s and your action or thoughts during the play to provide a linguistically-enriched environment. But be cautious of not doing the talking alone and at all the time. Balance the conversational turns with your child.

6. Encourage turn-taking in roles and talking

· Try to get everyone involved in play by taking turns. Always offer your child an opportunity to take the role by asking “Who wants to go first/next?”.

· Understanding whose turn and being able to wait patiently for his turn yet maintaining the interest and attention at the play or games are important social communication skills.

·See how we apply this technique in games at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_0aOSKXIuq42jXhAnkfJ_w

(Social Playgroup Games Series)

7. Be a role model

· Always start the game by modelling the steps of the game. You may model in real situations or show a modelling video short clip. Recently, I found that video demonstration is quite effective for children to understand the steps involved in a game. Visit our YouTube Channel to see the examples of video used for demonstration during playgroup games.

· In addition, you may model the correct use of language and pronunciation if your child uses the words less accurately or mispronounces the words, after his/her production.


8.Allow exploration and breakdown

· Be relaxed when the breakdown happens. Do not rush to solve it or get mad at it. Instead, ask your child, “what happened?” or “what should we do?”, facilitate him/her to think of a solution.



· Do not provide the prompt or answer too quickly, wait sufficiently and allow the “pause” moment for your child to process the situation and try to think of the best solution.

· Sometimes, you may make a silly mistake to create the breakdown for enhancing your child’s problem-solving skills.

9. Be creative

· Play is about connection and having fun together. Hence, anything can be turned into a play during your interaction with your child. For example, your child started to tap on the table aimlessly. We can copy him/her tapping and add in a rhyme “Can you play the drum?” to the action. Then your child may join in this play by following your tapping according to the singing rhythm. That’s play!


10. Establish play routine

· Set up a routine for play time. Make play time a leisure family activity. Play is a perfect time for distressing from work, improving family bonding in addition to nurturing your child’s development in all the aspects.


No amount of money or success can take the place of time spent with your family. Enjoy playing with your child and get the most out of it. Have fun!

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