Everything I Need to Know; I Learned in the Playroom: How Play Skills Support Early Communication

Everything we need to know; we learned in the playroom. Well, maybe not everything, but the play skills learned in early childhood help shape the way we communicate every day. As a speech pathologist, I often get questions about playing, and its role in supporting early communication, particularly regarding word use. Children learn and explore their world through play. They are constantly exploring ways to interact with their world in enjoyable ways. As their caregivers, teachers, and therapists, we often seek to be part of that enjoyment with them. Play can be so engrossing; we may often fail to recognize all the useful skills we are teaching and modeling when we play with our kids. Some of those skills are critical in supporting the developing communication skills of your child. Skills such as imitation, turn-taking, and anticipation are used every time we communicate. Therapists are often engaging in play activities to support these early skills to help provide the foundational supports to facilitate progression toward communication skills, and you can, too! The way in which you play with your child and the kinds of activities you engage in together can help support these early skills. Here are some helpful tips to support your child’s communication skills.

  • Imitation:
    • Imitate them! When children see you imitate their actions, sounds, or the way they interact with toys, they start to learn that we can imitate what another person does.
    • Imitate other familiar members during play! Siblings, parents, grandparents, and friends can all be great models by engaging in imitative play!
  • Anticipation:
    • Play games like peek-a-boo! Build up the pause and be very expressive.
    • Put in playful pauses during familiar songs or phrases!
  • Turn Taking:
    • Take turns during play with them! Take turns during play with their favorite toys. Passing items back and forth or playing with an item for a while and then giving the item to your child and waiting to see if they want to take a turn.
    • Turn taking songs can be great for turn taking. Using playful pauses can be helpful here, too. It can help encourage them to engage.
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