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The importance of play for children

I have written a lot about the importance of play for children on this blog as well as on my Facebook page. I believe strongly in the importance of play! Play is children’s work. It is how they learn and practice new skills. The best thing a parent can offer a child is their time and the opportunity to be their partner in play. Children learn how to share, take turns, problem solve, and communicate through play. Fellow SLP blogger Activity Tailor recently shared on her blog about the importance of play and it’s benefits. “The genius of play is that, in playing, we create imaginative new cognitive combinations.” You can read her blog in it’s entirety here.

Play comes in many forms. You can purchase board games that teach a myriad of skills. What may appear as “just play” could be a lesson in math, language, or many other life skills. In case you missed it, my blog Let’s Play! lists in detail several board games and the skills that are targeted while playing.

Part of my caseload includes working with younger preschool children to develop their language skills. Therapy is provided in their home which allows parents and caregivers the opportunity to witness how play is also a learning opportunity. I like to use simple toys that don’t make sounds so I can be the voice that the children focus on. Nesting cups, blocks, toy cars, board books, bubbles, and shape sorters are all tools that I frequently utilize.

Young children learn from repetition, so repeating words and labeling their actions in play helps to strengthen their vocabulary. While playing with toy cars and trucks I will make lots of car sounds, like “vroom vroom” and “beep beep.” Sometimes our cars crash too, which usually incites smiles and giggles. You can have your child make choices. While playing with toy food, ask does the baby (doll) want to eat an apple or banana. Require that your child use words or approximations of words when making a request. If your child extends his/her hand for a block, ask “block? want block?” before fulfilling the request. The key is to use words to label what is happening in play. You are the director providing a script that will help boost your child’s language. The more models you provide the more words your child will hear and eventually imitate.

Remember to have fun and enjoy your play (work) time!

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