Play is often considered a “child’s job.” Don’t discount the importance of time the child can play on his or her own. This is a crucial time for your child to self-teach and self-guide. It’s essential for your child to have time to be in his or her own world, and you have to have time to clean the toilet.
As parents, we listened to our babies babble, listening to every syllable in hopes of hearing a stray “mama” or “dada” that we could claim as their first words. The babbling finally did turn to words, and the words turned into phrases. As our preschoolers grow and develop, we want to do everything we can to make sure they grow up in a language-rich environment. We read, quiz, and teach at every opportunity, but have you ever considered the importance of play in helping your child develop language?
The importance of play in developing language
Play is often considered a “child’s job.” We send our children off to play so we can make dinner, have a conversation with another adult, or clean the toilet. While our children do need that time to think on their own and to learn how to entertain themselves, this time can be a valuable time for learning. While they may not be learning their letters and numbers during this time, it is a time when parents can interact with their children to acquire language skills.
Ways to promote language developmen
During play, your children can learn the art of having a conversation. When your preschooler speaks to you, even if he or she is babbling about something you don’t quite understand, listen. Ask questions. Affirm that you are listening by repeating what he or she just said to show that you are a good listener. On the other hand, make sure your child is paying attention to you when you are speaking to him or her. Gently correct pronunciation and grammar mistakes by repeating the incorrect phrase back correctly. It may be tempting to let some of those mistakes pass because they can seem so cute, but you may regret that later.
During play, engage with your children. Find out the nature of his or her play and help your preschooler increase his or her vocabulary as you interact. For example, if your child is pretending that she is a mermaid, you can talk about the different sea creatures she might interact with during her life under water. If your child is pretending that he or she is a character from a TV show, suggest different plots that might be acted out during play. Not only are you helping them become more engaged during their playtime, but you are also validating their interests and drawing upon that to increase their vocabularies.
Follow your child’s lead. If your child points to an object and names it, expand upon that original thought by adding adjectives or verbs. For example, if your child points to a car, you might say, “Yes, it is a big car!” or “I like red cars too!” or “Yes, look at it go!”
Read! Don’t just wait for bedtime to pull out books, read any time of day. Visit the library. Take turns picking out books to introduce variety into your child’s life. Play with words and language. Talk about rhyming. (“What other words rhyme with cat and hat?”) Sometimes, point to the words as you read. Other times, just let your child cuddle into your arms and allow your child to get lost in the story and the rhythm of the words.
During play, if you allow your child to have screen time, talk about what he or she is watching. Ask about the characters. Discuss how the characters interact with each other. Ask your child what he or she thinks may happen next.
During work time, turn it into playtime! We all know that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, so while picking up the bedroom together pretend you are all pirates. Talk about what you are doing and how you are doing it by throwing a few “arrrrs” and “mateys” into the conversation. Your pirate play can also lead you into an imaginative game where you are trying to find your buried treasure. Have your child recite landmarks, directions, and distances during play to reinforce vocabulary.
Use playtime to foster opportunities for your children to learn. Don’t just assume that school time is for learning, and home time is for play. Don’t just assume that the only time your child can learn is if he or she is sitting at the kitchen table with a pencil and workbook. Encourage your child to be a lifelong learner by engaging in learning every moment of the day.
Helping children learn and grow
However, don’t discount the importance of time the child can play on his or her own. This is a crucial time for your child to self-teach and self-guide. It’s essential for your child to have time to be in his or her own world, and you have to have time to clean the toilet.
Check out Cadily’s Day and Night Charts to help your child self-guide throughout the day. Teach your child how to build a routine full of good habits.