We all like to play – children, adolescents, and adults alike. But did you know that the development of play skills is integral to the development of a child’s speech and language skills? Who would have thought something so fun could be so beneficial!
A play context, in fact, provides primary communicative opportunities for young children. This means that play can increase a child’s exposure to many vocabulary items, different forms of language, the many uses of language, as well as opportunities to experiment with their own gestures, sounds, and/or words in a safe and comfortable environment. Yes, all that in one context!
Given the important nature of play in the development of speech and language skills, take a peek at the following tips on how to select toys and create a rich play environment that will help with your child’s speech and language.
Toy Selection
1.) When selecting toys for play, try to include the use of toys that allow for both realistic and imaginative play. This way, your child will have opportunities to engage in both concrete and pretend play – two very important forms of play!
2.) Toys should also be easy to hold, carry, and manipulate – especially for children who have motor difficulties. The importance here is that the quality of motor ability to manipulate objects appears to be related to early communication development.
Play Environment
1.) Play should always be fun and never work. Therefore, let your child lead the play. This means letting him/her engage in whichever activity, in whichever manner they so choose. Even if it means repeatedly putting play-dough back into the container without even molding any shapes — let them lead the play! Kids pay the most attention to what they have chosen and are interested in, not always to what we are interested in.
2.) Keep play a positive and pressure-free environment. Try to refrain from asking your child questions during play and instead talk about what is going on during play. Describe what you see, hear, feel, and smell. This will help keep any communicative pressures to a minimum and allow for a comfortable communication environment!

Written by: Mia Majorahn, speech-language pathologist, The Speech Therapy Centres of Canada Ltd.