Back in April I covered the topic of play stages. You may or may not remember that children develop many physical, emotional, social and language skills through play. As a parent, it is important to maximize your child’s play by getting on the floor and talking with them. For the remainder of the month, I will be selecting a toy or activity and focusing on how to incorporate language concepts with the specific toy.
When I’m setting up an activity to focus on various aspects of language, I first make a mental list of the language concepts I want to teach. Language is made up of two parts, auditory comprehension (the ability to understand and comprehend a message that is heard, read or interpreted from body language) and expressive language (the ability to create a message that others will understand). Your use of language can be adjusted in various ways based on what stage of language development your child is in. Since each child develops at a varied rate I think about language development in terms of stage rather than age.
* Early communicators (around 7 to 12 months)- communicate using babbling and crying in relationship to the world around them
* New talkers (around 12 months to 2 years)- uses single words or pictures
* Combining words (around ages 2-4)- Use short phrases and by age four simple sentences
It is easy to adapt your language targets based on the language stage of the child. See how simple it can be…
Auditory Comprehension: Since your child is just learning how to manipulate the blocks by banging them together, throwing and tasting focus your language around these actions.
* Your child is also showing understanding of communication turn taking rule. When he/she makes a gesture or sound to get your attention, it’s important to acknowledge you heard them. This models good turn taking skills, which some adults still haven’t figured out.
Words to focus on: more, block, up, down, help, all done, throw.
* Use the words you choose frequently in various different forms.
Expressive Language: Encourage your child to imitate the words he/she may know “uh oh”, “boom”, “wow”, “ohh”, “oh no”.
* As your child moves closer to the “first words” stage he/she will begin to imitate more of these words. Encourage any sort of attempt with lots of praise.
As your baby turns into a full fledged toddler, he or she begins to interact more with toys. Banging, mouthing, and throwing is still the main source of entertainment, but every once in a while they may enjoy imitating play activities.
Auditory Comprehension: While building your tower talk about different propositions and adjectives such as “I’m putting my block on top of the box.” or “Look how tall my tower is.”
*You can also work on simple directions such as “Give me your block.” or “Knock your tower over.”.
* Target new vocabulary by describing your actions, such as “Mommy is picking the blocks up.” “Clean up time.” “Put blocks in box.” “Blocks go in.”
* Children learn best from repetition and simple language
Expressive Language: Choose single words that your child is learning and use them throughout the play time. Don’t forget to model correct pronunciation and grammar. If your child mispronounces a word don’t correct them, just repeat it the correct way. Repetition is the key!
Words to focus on: big/little, up/down, stack, help, watch, my turn/your turn, go, block, fall, again, higher
As your child’s gross motor and fine motor skills improve he or she will begin to build with blocks instead of bang them together. Around age two (sometimes later) a language explosion will occur and your child will learn new words daily.
Auditory Comprehension: At this language stage you introduce simple questions, such as “Do you think the tower will fall?” or “Can you help me”.
* Ask your child to identify concepts taller/shorter, bigger/smaller, shapes, colors
* Continue with direction following, gradually increasing to two-step directions. Kids enjoy making a game out of following directions, such as “Do what mommy/daddy does… put a block in the box and then clap your hands.”
Expressive Language: Target two- three word combinations adding to the complexity based on your child’s language.
* Focus on different attributes of the blocks (colors, size, shape), encouraging your child to use full sentences, such as “I have a green block.”
Words to focus on: That’s mine, I built a (name of object here), Let’s build, That’s high, Knock it down, It fell down.
Now I challenge you to pick one of your child’s favorite activity or a new play activity and work on building new language experiences. Before you sit down and play, write down a word list or formulate one in your head. Then take 10 to 15 minutes and have some uninterrupted playtime with your child. Yup- no phone, TV or computer. Just you, your child and some simple toys.
What are your child’s favorite toys or activities? I would love to feature them in the following weeks and help you develop ways to grow language through play. Please feel free to comment, send me an e-mail or contact me on Twitter.