5 Tips For Using Play to Encourage Development

Play can be a powerful tool to encourage language development. An SLP, OT, or other professional has recommended that you play with your child. Now what? This can seem very overwhelming. How? When? Where? Here are five tips to use play to encourage development.

title, "Five Tips play to encourage development" and a picture of a young child playing with large clicking bricks.

Pick toys or activities that your child likes.

They will stay engaged longer, will be more willing to play with others, and children will be more engaged in language learning. Sometimes a toy is so engaging that it is hard for children to let others join in his or her play. This would not be a great toy to choose. For more information on picking toys to use in play, see this previous blog post, Choosing Toys to Help Develop Language Skills.

Be animated when playing.

Exaggerating your facial expressions and the tone of your voice will help keep your child’s attention longer. It also encourages children to copy you. A child’s ability to copy your actions, words, expressions, and gestures are crucial to help language development.

Use short concise grammatically correct sentences.

A general rule of thumb is to use one or two more words than the child can use. For example, if your child is using single words to communicate, then use no more than three words in a sentence. This will help with their comprehension, and it will show them how to make longer sentences.

When using short sentences, use the correct grammar.

Those little words (is/are, a/the, to) are important. If you don’t use them, your child will have to learn them later. It will help to be more specific when talking with you.

Limit the number of questions you ask.

What you say?! But I can get my child to talk when I ask questions. Asking too many questions can feel like they are being tested or worse yet like they are being interrogated. It can also limit the back and forth rhythm of a conversation. So use lots of comments (e.g., A big truck!) with a spattering of questions.

Five full playdough containers with a playdough handout below them


Playing is a powerful tool to help develop so many skills in your child. Click here for a handout of these top ten tips. If you would like more ideas on how to work on specific goals through play, check out Come Play! which has over 150 play ideas to help develop language.

I hope these tips will help you feel more confident when playing. Click here for five more tips to use play to encourage development.

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