Why Do We Play?

 Speech-Language Pathologists are used to hearing, “All you do is play!” - as if that’s a bad thing.  But therapists know the benefits of play-based strategy. This strategy is based on the fact that oral language is learned spontaneously in childhood by most children, mostly by imitation, and through play and daily living routines.

children play to learn

 Play is children’s work. Play is very important to the development of future skills. The brain develops through the child's play. The experience of play changes the connections and the neurons in the brain. Without play experiences, those neurons aren't changed, that neuro connectivity will not happen, and we don’t get the development of relationships, thought, cognition, and language.

"Play is more than just fun. It's work. It's change. It's development, and it help people to change what is important, especially in the core-deficit of autism, social communication and interaction.” (S. Brown, 2009)

 Play should be promoted within schools. Unfortunately, this doesn’t often happen. There is not a lot of room for play in our schools. But play is necessary for children to learn to take reasonable risks. We need to let them play and explore so that they can learn to problem-solve and think independently.

play to learn

 The definition of play is to follow the child's lead, let the child have their own ideas, and really think about when you're playing with the child.  If it's your idea, chances are the child won't stay and play with you for very long because they want to be able to have their own ideas. As soon as a clinician (or parent) starts to change the idea and make it their own, they lose the child.

For students whose language is not developing typically, we use play-based strategies to promote language development.  Play can intrinsically motivate children to learn through exploration of play materials. For children with and without special educational needs play is crucial, as it is a way for students to socialize and make sense of the world (Stewart, 2009). Vygotsky's idea was that through play, children become more competent in their language use and begin to regulate their own thought processes, start to explore with language and interaction, and develop higher-level skills.

Many of the children we see - especially those with autism - tend to gravitate towards a lot of self-directed, self-isolating play, which we call sensory motor play. Sensorimotor play is where the child needs a lot of movement, a lot of sensory input, in order to stay engaged or to really be in a relationship with anybody in their environment. In order to get to the highest level of complex pretend play, it takes a lot of work. Work that is play.

So, that’s why we play.  Go, have fun!

Helping parents understand how to use play to build language? Here is a FREE handout for them.

using toys to build language skills

No comments

Post a Comment