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5 Tips For Building Language During Play

Updated: Jun 6, 2021


"Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood,”

-Fred Rogers, aka Mr. Rogers



We cannot stress the importance of building language through play enough! It is a highly motivating, natural environment and is the perfect way for children to learn language.


1. Follow the leader (side note: your child is the leader)


Follow your child’s lead during play. Allowing your child to lead the interaction, increases motivation to communicate. Observe what your child is interested in or what toys they gravitate towards and then jump in and play along with the same toy.

Example: If your child is playing with a ball, join in and play with the ball too. You can...

2. Get Low, get low, get low, get low...


Get on your child’s level while playing with them. If your child is playing on the floor, sit on the floor with them and make sure that you can make eye contact with them.



3. Narrate


Narrate what your child is doing while they are playing. This might make you feel a little crazy at first, but pairing words with what your child is doing can really help build language in a natural way. If your child is playing with a car, instead of asking your child “what is this?” Try saying “The blue car is going fast.” You will want to use short sentences that are grammatically correct.



4. Take Turns


Having a back and forth interaction with your child is a great way to build their turn taking skills. This can be done verbally or through actions and gestures. This starts building the foundation for conversations and turn taking activities. For example, with 1-2 year olds, it can be as simple as rolling the ball back and forth and stating "my turn" and "your turn." When you roll the ball to your little one, you can use a gesture and say "my turn," then wait for your little one to either gesture, vocalize or say "my turn," to have the ball rolled back to them.


For your little ones that are a bit older, say 2-3 year olds, you can build the same skill by playing a simple game of picture bingo or candy land. You can ask whose turn it is and verbally acknowledge each persons turn as they play.



5. Be a one-upper by expanding what your child says

You can expand your child’s language by building on what your little one says. Repeating and rephrasing what your child says can help them learn new vocabulary, including verbs and adjectives, in context and can also help them learn grammar. For example, if your child is playing with an airplane and says ‘airplane,” you can build on that by saying “the airplane is flying.” This not only helps teach your child a variety of words, but teaches them how words go together to make a sentence. To read more about how to be a "One-Upper" click here.



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