When something’s referred to as ‘child’s play’ it usually is signifying something done easily; an insignificant or trivial matter. In fact, actual child’s play is no trivial matter and has major significance in all areas of child development—and specifically, language development.
Being a parent you are your child’s 1st, and most important teacher. You can support your kiddo’s language development, naturally, in three ways: reading to your child, singing together, and encouraging pretend play.
Cozying up together to settle in for a bedtime story can be a key step in your kiddo’s bedtime routine, but it also can give you both a way to share and enjoy the sound, melody and rhythm of language. When you find an outstanding children’s picture book, you’ve found a book that’s been able to combine a good story with beautiful art. The illustrations are equally, if not more, important in a picture book than the text! It’s through the illustrations that children come to understand words convey meaning. Choosing quality pictures books can increase your child’s vocabulary; their understanding of concepts; their imaginations; and begin a lifetime love affair of reading!
•Start right away! Babies are not too young to be read stories!
•Make time every day to read—whether it’s just before bedtime or in the morning after breakfast, establish a routine of reading!
•Choose books with simple text, repeating phrases, and/or rhyming words—that’ll make it easier for your kidlet to pick up on the narrative; the story lines; the next word. Regarding simple text for babies and toddlers—I think books like sensory books (for example: Pat the Bunny) where kiddos touch—or smell—something on a page that describes that thing OR single word per page books like First Word books, are more concept books as opposed to stories…they have a place, but don’t limit your child to the ‘flash cards’ of books. Once your kidlet is an older preschooler, they will definitely be more interested in the actual story the book has to tell and the accompanying illustrations. Fortunately, there are countless, fantastic children’s picture books available!
•Purchase—or better yet, create your own personalized story book! The topics are endless from My Family to Our Summer Vacation and countless ideas in between. Reading the book serves double-duty as it gives your kiddo the chance to re-tell/share memories of the event or be reminded of out-of-state family members.
Wondering how PLAY was going to be connected to reading? Here it is:
•Act out short stories—it’s a great way to develop your kidlet’s memory, listening skills as well as impulse control….”Remember, wait for your cue!”
•Go to the library together—take advantage of your local library’s reading programs.
•Let your child see YOU reading and your enjoyment!
Singing is actually a type of PLAY the whole family can enjoy together! Any language can be thought of as a song of its own, with rhymes and rhythms, tone, beat and inflection. Singing with your child naturally introduces them to these aspects of language! Also, it is a developmentally appropriate way to introduce new words into their vocabularies. Singing songs gives kiddos a context for new words which aids in their comprehension. Additionally, when you sing to your baby or kidlet it improves their listening skills.
•Sing nursery rhymes or chants.
•Create new verses by adding onto existing songs—making use of your child’s imagination in extending the song further.
•Add simple rhythm instruments to songs to emphasize syllables and accents on words.Incorporate movement while singing! It adds another element to the song, capitalizing on the mind-body connection and making ‘learning’ a song much easier!
Play comes in many forms—sensory play, physical play, constructive play—to name just a few. Pretend play or make-believe play, where children role-play, acting out stories which can involve different points of views, collaboration and cooperation, provides ample opportunities for language development.
Look for your kidlet to be interested in, and developmentally capable of, pretend play beginning around 2 ½ years of age. The significance of pretend play cannot be over-emphasized. It helps children:
•Think outside the box
•Learn to create beyond the here and now
•Stretch their imaginations
•Use new words and word combinations
All in a risk-free environment!
Pretend play contributes to the richness of language available to a child; increasing not only their vocabulary, but an awareness of or usage of the parts of speech and/or the rules of grammar such as subjunctives, future tenses, and adjectives.
Of (arguably) primary importance, language is used to convey thoughts and ideas with others. In a pretend play setting, when children make-believe, they embody different characters. In this context, they are given the opportunity to learn how to communicate—even understand another’s feelings—with other children. Pretend play gives them practice to develop an important social skill! Read more about why pretend play is important!
Encouraging pretend play:
You don’t have to have a closet or trunk full of costumes for your child to dress-up in to support your kidlet’s pretend play—day to day LIFE offers up a lot of chances too! For example:
•Create a ‘grocery store’ for your child to shop!
•Collect empty containers, boxes, tins, and bottles; wash, rinse and let dry
•Include any wooden or plastic fruit/vegetables you may have
•Stock your store’s shelves! Shelves could be an empty or cleaned out book shelf OR boxes turned
•Provide cart or basket for shopping and bag(s) for loading groceries
•Let your kiddo create a grocery list by asking you what’s needed for dinner or for the week ahead!
• If there’s play money available—use it, if not don’t worry about it!
•Once all the groceries are ‘home’ and unpacked, set your kidlet up for some pretend play cooking!
All parents want their child to do well and have a bright future. One predictor of academic success is parental involvement. This really lays the foundation for success in general. So start straightaway—reading to them, singing together, and setting up pretend play scenarios. PLAY—in all its many forms—matters! Develop your child’s language naturally through PLAY!
Yours in Play!