HOW you play with your toddler can have the greatest impact on your child’s language development.
There are simple techniques you can do to help improve your child’s speech and language skills while playing. Below, I outline my top 5 strategies. Take your time reading through the techniques.
Then, try one for a day or two and see if you notice a difference.
How to play with toddler: Get down on the floor! Getting down on the floor means sitting, crawling, and rolling around. Make sure you are on the same level as your child, not above.
This may seem like an obvious one but many parents observe their children from a chair and make a comment here and there, instead of actually playing, laughing, and having fun.
Why Do This? When your child can see your face, he/she picks up on visual cues on how to say sounds. Children also listen and learn better when they are naturally talking while playing within their little world. Last, when you are at the level of your child, you have their full attention. Make sure you are talking to your child the correct way while you play. Yes, there is a right and a wrong way!
I will mention this throughout this website but there is a good reason for it.
At this age, children learn BEST when they are playing since it is meaningful and relevant. We all (children and adults) learn best when information is motivating, meaningful, and relevant.
For example, a child will learn the word “dog” faster when he is at a park petting a dog, running after the dog, and calling for the dog. Looking at flashcards of a dog and repeating the word “dog” when your parents say ...."say dog" is not nearly as relevant or meaningful.
Build learning into whatever your child is already HAPPILY doing by following his lead.
Why Do This? As I explained above, toddlers learn faster from meaningful play in their natural environments. Also, when skills are learned this way, children retain the learned information better.
Play imaginative games! Toys are just props. A block can be a block but it also can be an apple, a rocket ship, or a house. Get creative!
Get lost in the moment while playing. Don’t watch the clock or worry about getting dirty. Worry about having fun with your toddler!
Why Do This? Being creative will help language and cognitive development and save money on buying tons of toys. Check out our free language ideas here using things found around the house.
While you play with your toddler, talk with a purpose. Don’t just name toys or pictures while your child plays. Instead, describe toys, talk about what they do, and what they look like.
For example, if your child says “dog.” Weave in phrases such as: “yes, dog. A dog is an animal. It’s a pet. A dog barks, ruff.“
Why do this? This helps build word knowledge and vocabulary development. Vocabulary is more than simply knowing words. We must understand the whole concept of a word (category, function, use, description) to properly understand it and relate it to new information.
Vocabulary development is the foundation for listening, speaking, reading, and writing abilities.
Click here for MORE tips on how to best talk to your child.
Listen and respond while playing, don’t quiz! While it is great to weave language learning into play, remember that you are having fun.
We all want children to learn and grow. Out of good intention, I see parents asking their children question after question and sometimes not even waiting for a response. This is NOT playing!
While your child is playing, listen, really listen. Take what he or she is saying seriously and respond appropriately.
Why Do this? Too many questions can be overwhelming and counterproductive. Play may seem like work and it may turn children off from playing. We don’t want this! Learn how to ask questions the right way in our membership program.
Knowing how to play with toddlers is important but having the right toys is equally as important.
Click here for my toy recommendations and quick tips on how to play with a toddler to develop speech and language skills.