As a Speech Therapist, one of the areas that we look into when we see a child for assessment is their level of play. Play is often dismissed as having no academic value. However, research has found that a child’s ability to pretend play can be compared to how well that child can tell and comprehend stories. It involves sustained symbolic thinking, use of narratives and a range of other vital literacy skills. As children grow older, their level of play becomes more complex, involving more characters, sequences and representations. Thus, adults find it challenging to enhance the language development of their children when their level of play requires higher level of narrative skills.
When we work with children with language delay, we use toys that we know will encourage certain words or sentences. More importantly, the ability to be flexible and to modify whatever materials we have at hand play an important role during play. However, ideas may not come fast whenever we need them! So, here are few more ideas we can use with our children.
You will need: cardboard tubes of kitchen paper towels (as a telescope), a shoebox with a few items inside, such as eyeglasses, toy jewellery, coins, shoes, etc. (as a treasure chest), furniture (e.g. sofa, chair), paper (to draw the map on)
Procedures: Create a treasure map that is easy enough for your child to understand. For more ideas how to make a treasure map click here.
You will need: torch (flashlight), cut out figures of animals or any characters (use black paper or cardboard)
*For instructions how to make simple shadow puppets, click here.
Procedures: In a dark room, turn on the torch towards the wall of the room. Using the shadow puppets you’ve made, you can create simple stories encouraging your child to use their imagination.
You may take photos when playing and create a photo story!
You will need: crumpled paper or foil (for asteroids), Lego astronauts or similar, play dough and boxes (for transport vehicles)
Procedures: For more information on how to set-up the play, click here.
You will need: chairs, desk, a sign (“shop” or “store”), shopping items (old cereal boxes, milk, etc.), shopping basket, wallet and money (you can use paper money)
For more ideas of grocery shopping pretend play, click here.
You will need: scarves, hats, towels, old shirts, pants, shoes, slippers, tiara, etc.
These are only few suggestions. Expand… Create… There are many books in libraries or even online sources that will tell you more about using homemade toys. Many people enjoy making toys as it allows them to design toys and materials to adapt to their children’s needs. Also, this can save you money!
Remember, your play should be fun, interesting and meaningful. Follow your child’s lead. Experience your childhood again and enjoy the time you will spend in playful learning with your child.
Schwartz, S. (2004). The new language of toys: Teaching Communication Skills to Children with Special Needs, 3rd Edition. Woodbine House.
Stagnitti, K. & Jellie L. Play to Learn: Building Literacy in the Early Years