Here is the awesome thing about playtime--your kids are continuously learning as they explore. Playtime for our youngsters is their school time. It’s their chance to be creative, discover, experiment and problem solve. As a speech-language pathologist, I am often asked what parents can do to enhance a child’s learning during playtime. My response is it’s really quite easy. Here are a few ideas:
Let Your Kid be the Teacher
Sit back, relax and allow your child to lead you through a play routine or idea they are confident about. Kids love to be in control (mine can’t be the only one, right?) Ask your child if she can explain what it is you are trying to accomplish together. Can she orally sequence out the steps needed to complete the task?
Work on Phonics During Play
It is really simple to incorporate literacy into playtime routines. Ask your little one what sound or letter a toy starts with, and if he can think of a word that rhymes with it. What about the ending sound of that word? Is he able to identify some letters in print with the toys and books he is using?
Ask Questions Before a New Activity
Work on your child’s expressive language and critical thinking skills by asking her what she plans to do before playing. Is there something she is trying to build? Or, a goal she wants to achieve (such as putting together a puzzle)? Have her explain what she is doing as she plays and ask “why” for additional language practice.
Spark Your Kid’s Imagination by Not Using Toys
There are a handful of games to play that don’t require any props or toys. Think of games like “Simon Says,” “Duck Duck Goose,” and “I Spy.” Ask your child if he can come up with a game or activity to play that doesn’t need any toys. What are the rules? How do you win the game? These types of activities allow your child to practice giving reasons and explaining details.
Encourage Your Kid to Think Outside the Box
If you ask your child to think outside the box by using a toy in a new way, then that will teach her to be flexible and adapt to new experiences. It also gives your child a chance to be creative and use her imagination - and can be a fun new take on what she has previously experienced.
Let Your Kid Play Alone
Interactive play with your child is amazing, but it isn’t the only type of important play. Sometimes I feel guilty when my son is playing alone and I am busy marking tasks off my checklist (or, let’s be honest, sometimes just relaxing). BUT then I remember he is learning independence and problem solving skills on his own. It also gives me a chance to wolf down any hidden contraband snacks. Looking at you, dark chocolate pretzels.
In summary, enhancing your kiddos learning through play doesn’t need to be difficult or elaborate. It’s about taking what they already do on a day-to-day basis and giving it a little “oompf,” if you will.
It’s the small things that will make all the difference.
Danielle Novascone is the Co-Founder of Witty & Wordy. She has been a Speech-Language Pathologist for 12 years and a mom for a little over two years. She thoroughly enjoys coffee, wine, and Kansas City. She also loves to laugh, help kids and parents - and shop (mainly for her clients and kiddo!).