Play is a great way to expand our children's experience and understanding of the world. Helping them to develop their imagination and their vocabulary. Learning in the early years should be engaging and fun. Through interactive play, it's communication that happens is what's important. Toys and play can take so many different forms. Let's dive deeper into the different forms of play and the toys to encourage talking.
4 Types of play & what kinds of toys encourage language?
If your child is highly active and enjoys being outdoors and sports, then hoops, bean bags and running races are a great way to encourage talking.
Setting up obstacle courses, talking about going ‘over’ and ‘under’ and ‘through’ various items like a blanket or a box.
Starting with running races using ‘ready steady go’, you can then encourage other actions such as a hopping, skipping or a jumping race.
When throwing bean bags into hoops, you could encourage choice making and turn taking. E.g. which hoop do you want to throw towards or it's your turn to throw.
These activities encourage your child to link play objects with their real use and to talk about them.
A great way of teaching vocabulary and talking, is to model what the child already knows about the world with their toys. For example, ‘Dolly needs to brush her teeth’, ‘I think we need to run a bath for Dolly’.
Once your child can imitate their routine you can then extend their play and imagination skills by thinking about less frequent events. Such as ‘it's dolly's party, what will she need?’. You can give your child choices, ‘do we need a pen or a birthday cake?’. You could talk about the size and colour of the birthday cake and how many candles will be on the birthday cake.
Other ideas include:
Keep everyday objects, e.g. boxes, egg cartons and encourage your child to play with them. For example, a box can be a car, a boat, or a hat.
Have a tea part with a teddy or doll and feed them using pretend food.
Do everyday actions with dollies and teddies: put them to sleep, feed them, etc.
For older children, play role play games:
Shopkeepers; Hospitals (pretend to be a doctor or nurse).
Remember to talk about what you and your child are doing as it happens. You don’t need to ask questions or tell them what to do. Keep your sentences short.
Construction & miniature play
You can use small Playmobil or Duplo figures, Lego, doll house toys, farm or zoo animals, and small cars to do these activities. You will find there is opportunity to use a wider variety of words to describe them, including lots of action words.
Encourage your child to explore the toys themselves as much as possible and watch closely what they find interesting.
Demonstrate simple actions with the toys and then talk about what your child does with them. E.g. “He’s going up the stairs”
Use action words as much as possible: e.g. drinking, eating, sleeping, washing, falling down, climbing, going fast.
This includes books and games.
Books with only a few words are great in the early years. Adults can talk about what they see in the picture. The “You Choose” book is one of my favourite books for teaching vocabulary. It gives the opportunity to talk about clothes, animals, food and people. For young children, you can comment on what you can see, talking about the shapes, colours, function, location of the items in the book. For older children you can play I spy. Give them clues about something you can see and encourage them to find the item then you can swap roles in the game. Adults can also model simple sentences such as I can see, I like, I don't like.
Other ideas for learning toys and how you stimulate a child to talk:
All games such as matching pairs, snap and Dominoes. These games are good for attention and listening skills as well as talking and teaching concepts such as ‘same’ and ‘not the same’.
If your child plays with the same toy repeatedly, don't worry as adults are really one of the best “toys” and the best interactive play companion a child can have. You can comment on what the child is doing and model different ideas with that preferred toy. For example, if a child likes pushing a car on the garage, model the car being stuck in a traffic jam, use blocks and show the car swerving in between the building blocks or use them as skittle and take it in turns to knock them down with the car.
How do I help my child who is struggling to talk?
Try to encourage your child to engage with different types of play. If your child enjoys playing on the iPad or tablet there are lots of games and apps that can be very educational and your child may learn lots of new things from a digital device. However, not all types of play can be achieved on a tablet. Children like tablets as they respond immediately – you press something and something happens, however, this is not reflective of real play with our peers. In order to be exposed to be your own scientist, explore and discover new things and to develop turn taking and social interaction, restricted tablet time is highly recommended.