Play is an important aspect of your child’s life. From Peekaboo to I Spy, these activities are essential for a child’s development as it impacts their ability to think creatively and interact socially. Beyond encouraging curiosity, play teaches a child how to process the world, and as a result, facilitates learning. More than a source of relief from serious learning, play provides the primary foundation for everything from social to cognitive development — including language development.
As we have previously discussed, a delay in speech and language can affect a child’s social interactions, behaviour and academic skills. This makes the innumerable benefits of play one to be leveraged by both parents and educators.
Play Skills and Its Development in Early Childhood
Play comes in various forms, and they each serve a different function. As a child grows, their play skills evolve, supporting the development of new competencies through complex experiences. For example, infants engage in exploratory play, which delivers sensory-motor experiences. Such play is often demonstrated by their inclination to throw toys or put them in their mouth. Although simple at first glance, this form of play introduces them to the concept of cause and effect, which in turn would help a child link to further concepts like consequences of actions and sequencing, among others.
The power of play becomes more apparent as a child matures. Rather than engaging in non-verbal communication, toddlers and preschoolers partake in more imaginary play. Games like pretend play or dress-up are frequently accompanied by active imitation of language and behaviour of others. This is an important phase in the development of language and conversational skills. It is thus easy to see why interactive play like these are used as a simple strategy to build confidence in a shy child.
How Play Influences Language Development
Learning and playing are not separate activities. An integral part of every academic environment, it enhances learning readiness and offers a child the opportunity to practise their language skills. Small steps such as asking peers for permission to share a toy or informing parents and educators that they are tired all tie in to support early language development. This activity would also yield much more benefits in terms of language development when a child has a more learned other, or adult, to effectively facilitate their functional play time.
1. Learning from Peers
Cooperative play will undoubtedly enable a child to learn from their peers. This, in turn, will enhance their communication, and the cycle repeats. Through playful interactions, they will not only be able to refine their speech articulation, but also begin to comprehend and use language picked up on in everyday situations without any pressure of being wrong. And as peer interaction skills develop, they might also slowly open up and find comfort in sharing ideas with others. This is further enhanced when playing in outside areas that are filled with opportunities for exploration and investigation. With their curiosity piqued, questions are bound to be asked, and resultantly, they will learn the significance of projecting their voice and raising queries.
2. Enhancing Social Development
During solitary play, a child is taught the importance of paying attention and being aware of their surroundings. This learnt ability to concentrate for extended periods will translate to crucial attention and listening skills in the future. For example, they will know how to focus intently on what is being said while conversing with others.
Be it with playmates or parents, the interaction that occurs during playtime helps build relationships. Furthermore, as parents and educators are given an opportunity to get a glimpse into their Champ’s world, they will be able to come up with more methods to effectively communicate with them.
3. Encouraging the Expression of Views
Challenges associated with a child’s inability to communicate in school is a common concern amongst parents. However, play will encourage less verbal children to express their views when in the presence of their peers. Even during parallel play, whereby a child does not play directly with others, they slowly build communication skills. Through expressing their joy and frustrations or simply sitting by a friendly classmate, they will eventually gain more confidence in engaging fully.
Create the Opportunity for Language Development for Your Child
Engaging a child in play is pivotal in helping them overcome developmental gaps. Early intervention Programmes and Speech Therapy are additional intervention programmes designed to help children reach their highest potential. With customised therapy plans that cater to their individual learning needs, developmental outcomes can also be improved. Book a visit to our early intervention centre in Singapore and speak to us on the various strategies that can help promote your child’s speech and language development.