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Why Child’s Play Is Much More Than Just "Child’s Play"

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

Importance Of Play In Speech And Language Development

We’ve all grown up hearing the adage, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!” This couldn't be more true. For children, play is an integral part of development while growing up. Decades ago, children played games and sports on the streets, came up with make-believe toys, or invented their made-up games.

Play is one way how children develop their motor skills, learn to share, build upon their imagination, and also develop their speech and language. Play begins right from infancy. And just like cognition, motor skills, speech, and language skills, play has its own development pattern.

Benefits of Play

1. Play teaches a child about acceptable and non-acceptable behavior.

2. It sets the stage for turn-taking, waiting, and listening which becomes a basis for later conversational skills.

3. Helps in emotional development to differentiate between positive and negative emotions.

4. It helps children manipulate objects.

5. Stimulates their imagination and encourages creativity.

6. Helps in developing skills like negotiation and conflict resolution. 7. It involves them in physical exercise and can help in weight management. 8. Playtime helps reduce stress.

Don't trivialize play

Play is a great way to build speech and language skills by incorporating numerous other ways and methods. Language development is largely dependent on the child's brain development and cognitive development. The role of parents in teaching their children new words to upgrade their speech is very crucial.

With the idea that play represents and facilitates a child’s language development, it's essential to be aware of our child’s play skills. Play doesn’t require store-bought expensive games and products. Just home-based stuff like plates, ladles, rubber toys in a bath, dals, and rice from your pantry, and vessels from your kitchen can all help their skills and make them indulge in innovative play, helping them develop their vocabulary and language.

Different types of play based on age:

  • Exploratory Play (Birth – 12 months) is also called sensorimotor play. Play is focused on bonding with caregivers. From birth to 6 months, babies follow objects with their eyes and enjoy looking, listening, sucking, and touching objects brought close to them. They explore with their hands, feet, and mouth. At around 9 months they can grasp with their thumb and finger and bite, pull and taste objects. After a year, they explore toys longer and like to bang, drop and throw objects or games like peek-a-boo and bye-bye.

  • Relational Play (12 months – 24 months) is also called functional play. The young toddler engages in functional play. At this age, a young toddler will understand the use of an object and what it is meant for.

  • Symbolic/ Imaginary/ Pretend Play (2- 4 years) Babies' imaginations are expanding all the time. They begin to indulge in pretend play where they know they are pretending and attach mental concepts to their scenario. This is an important part of social development and helps them form interactions with others.

  • Games with rules (5-7 years) Multiple-player games like hide-n-seek, playing catch, doing projects, and building-up games where rules are involved and jobs are assigned require them to negotiate and resolve difficult situations. This involves physical activity and team play and also increases their social skills and teaches them a team mentality.

Team play with parents, and siblings and play dates with friends can further enhance communication, helping them learn from their peers. This enables children to exercise the language skills that they've learned and helps them to continue expanding their vocabulary. Interacting with grown-ups and peers helps in their speech and language development by listening and repeating what others say.

Regular free playtime between school and extracurricular activities can help give the desired break to children to destress and rejuvenate from their everyday schedules and also get them away from screens. Finding the right balance between scheduled activities and free play is important.

Here are some ways you can indulge in simple play with your child to help with their language development:

  1. Observe and follow. Children's level of interest can often determine their engagement in any activity.

  2. Word games can help children increase their vocabulary.

  3. Age-appropriate action songs can help them associate meaning with words.

  4. Use everyday objects to play as musical instruments for sing-alongs.

  5. Pretend-play games like playing ‘house’ or ‘doctor’.

  6. Building blocks or doing puzzles helps them with overall cognitive development and problem-solving.

At ZM Speech Care Clinic, we have been consistently focussing on intervention by giving children the most important element- play! It has been nearly two decades and in our experience, children with behavioral issues calmed down, some nonverbal children initiated verbalization, and language and speech skills improved drastically because we took play very seriously during our sessions.

To schedule an appointment with us, please call 9962864000.


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