Play is not only enjoyable for a child but it also is important in encouraging the skills necessary for language development. These include:
Development of concepts (shape, position, colour)
Symbolic understanding (toys are symbols for objects in the same way that words are symbols)
Social skills (such as taking turns)
Young children begin learning about conversation within the first few weeks following birth! The new born baby learns to focus on faces, give eye contact and vocalise to indicate his/her needs to the carer. Non-verbal interactions, such as eye contact, facial expression, imitation and turn-taking are important foundation skills for language development.
When playing or talking, make sure you are face to face and making eye contact.
Give the child plenty of time to respond and try to avoid anticipating and/or completing the child’s utterance.
Use open questions, rather than closed questions to encourage more than a yes/no response.
Keep background noise to a minimum.
Play and Early Conversation
Children of this age will engage in exploratory play – they explore toys and objects using their mouth and hands. They will also look at adults closely and copy movements, e.g., dropping objects. There is limited interaction with other children and play is described as solitary.
Babies will respond to voice and sound, e.g., they will make eye contact and smile when spoken to. They will ‘talk’ using babbling, squealing and cooing and also try and communicate through actions and gestures.
Children of this age start to play with adults and notice other children. They are starting to learn through cause and effect e.g., banging two objects together and finding what sound it makes and also like repetitive actions such as putting object in and out of boxes.
Children of this age will start to take turns when talking. They will also practice intonation, imitating the natural up and down tones that occur in adult speech.
Children of this age begin to use symbols in their play such as a stick becoming a sword. They may start to play alongside other children and copy their play. Children will still be learning through trial and error, he/she will start to show some reasoning skills, e.g. in playing with inset puzzles. Much of children’s play will be ‘imaginative’ for instance playing with large toys – teddies, t-sets or small toys – play people.
Children of this age begin to engage in longer conversations. They also may try and rephrase what they have said if the listener does not understand.
Children of this age are starting to play co-operatively with others and to take turns with other children. They also enjoy make believe play for instance playing ‘let’s pretend’ in the home-corner, or whilst dressing up and cooking.
Children of this age will start to talk about personal experiences, express ideas and feelings and frequently practice conversation skills by talking to themselves.
Children of this age are developing their conversation skills.e.g, beginning to take turns and talk about the same topic.
Children are now able to play co-operatively in groups with other children. Children will enjoy role play, and may act out common routines (e.g. playing house or schools), or may pretend to be characters from books or TV programmes.