Finding time for play
Parents are busy, but generally speaking, play happens naturally throughout the day. Still, it’s worth having a goal to share 30 minutes of play with your child every day. Find the time to get down on the floor with your toddlers and have fun together while helping them learn.
If you can play at the same time most days as part of a routine, e.g. straight after breakfast, then your child will gain security from knowing that they get your undivided attention in this way. If you need to break this up into two 15 minute play sessions, that works too. If you have time for more, play more! It’s worth the time invested, because play makes parents and children feel good, while strengthening relationships and communication.
Communication in play
During shared playtime, try to get into the habit of using effective communication with your child. This means:
- Use simple language, at or just above your child’s current level of speech.
- Communicate clearly, by slowing down, making eye contact, and sitting or kneeling on the floor to be at your child’s physical level.
- Be animated and interesting in your voice and facial expressions.
- Listen out for your child’s responses and take turns with them in the conversation. Expand on what they say.
- Use repetitive, predictable language, especially for children just starting to learn and use words.
Types of play
Look out for different ways to play with your toddler. Many toddlers like to move a lot during play, so be sure to include very active, physical games, like obstacle courses, along with more concentrated sit-down activities, like puzzles. The key is to do what your child finds fun.
You might sometimes try out new activities and find they just don’t work for your little one. That’s okay! The activity may be too hard or too simple at this time, or just not a good fit for your child’s personality. Stay the course- you will find many things that your toddler does love, so build language learning into the activities that are a hit!
Lots of toddlers are drawn to novelty. Showing them a new way to play can engage their interest and encourage them to enter an interaction with you, which is important for language learning. Have fun and the communication will emerge!