Play is such a powerful tool to help develop a variety of skills, which is why many professionals recommend parents play with their children. It can be overwhelming. In a previous post, I shared five tips to use when playing to help encourage language development (go here.) In this post, I’m sharing another five tips.
Remember that children have short attention spans.
Children with language delays can have even shorter attention spans. Don’t expect children to play with a single toy for longer than half an hour. Some can, but many can’t. If your child is flitting from toy to toy, look at your toy choices. Are these toys a good fit? Are there too many toys out? Too many toys can overwhelm kids. Keep toy choices to a minimum when you are playing.
Give your child time to understand what you are saying and then give a response. It feels very awkward and is hard to do. I still find it challenging, and I have to remind myself to wait. To help encourage your child to respond, lean forward and look expectantly to help cue your child that you are waiting for a response.
Change up the types of words you use.
It’s hard to make a sentence when you only know the names of things. Children with language delays tend to have less action words, describing words, and location words. SLPs tend to work on a child’s understanding and use of verbs, a lot. The same with location and describing words. Use a variety of action, location, describing words when talking.
Sabotage can create a compelling reason to communicate.
Use clear containers that your child has difficulty opening. Put favourite toys out of reach but still insight. This will allow them to ask for help. WARNING! While this is a great tool, using it too often will frustrate children and make it so that they don’t want to play with you. In this case, less is more.
Make it fun for you. The more you are having fun, the more your child will have fun, and the more effective your play session will be. Be silly. Don’t worry, your child is not judging you. If you are playing trains for the thousandth time, this can be challenging. Try mixing up how you are playing trains. For example, don’t use tracks but have the trains run through paint and paint tracks on a large piece of paper. Another suggestion would be to try and mix up playing with trains with playing with other toys or doing different games.
Playing is a powerful tool to help develop so many skills in your child. Click here for a handout of these top ten tips. What are your favourite ways to encourage play with children?