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  • Writer's pictureChattykiddo


Updated: Jun 16, 2021

Did you know that children use play to develop the foundations of language such as self-regulation, turn taking, sequencing actions, as well as using both nonverbal and verbal skills? What adults might see as a simple game can actually be a highly complicated set of negotiations from figuring out the world and how to use objects with purpose to how to think creatively and share play space with others.

The early stages of play provide contextual support for learning language and communication. A 12 month old may quickly learn that using a word to ask for 'more' blocks may perpetuate her fun with a favorite stacking activity. A 2 year old can practice matching real actions to the newly learned verbs as he is consoling his "crying teddy bear". Language literally comes alive during play as communication skills are closely intwined with play. But it is social language that is the real king of play!

Social language functions is how we interact as humans and this is where play and communication really come together. Picture three 4 year olds playing together as they are discussing who will wear the magical cape first. The social functions used in that tiny fragment of play are truly astonishing. Children are using spoken language to reject, request, comment, negotiate, and ask questions. Their waiting, listening and attention skills get honed with each such interaction. Essentially, play becomes the glue that holds the children's interactions and communication together.

But more than that, peer to peer play is a chance for children to practice understanding and using language they have heard from the adults in naturalistic contexts and make it their own. It is a time to judge the responses from their peers and assess the effect of language on can have on others. The ability to engage and negotiate with your communication partner is a lifelong functional skill every child needs to learn. As the world is slowly returning to its pre-pandemic normal, peer to peer play becomes a real priority as a way to rapidly boost language skills at all stages of communication development. So, as safely as possible, arrange those play dates and sit back and enjoy the show!

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