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3 Ways That Play Helps a Child Build Language

For a child who has difficulty communicating, learning to do so can be challenging. Focusing on play during speech therapy is a great way to motivate a child to build their language in a developmentally appropriate, engaging, and fun environment. There are countless ways that play can help a child build language – here are three of them!


  • Play can be very repetitive. If you’ve ever played a sport, you may have been told that you need to practice a skill at least 1000 times before it is mastered. Learning language is no different – repetition is vital!

  • For Analytic Language Learners learning their first words, you might pick a few target words related to the activity, and use them again and again, exposing the child to a new word in a meaningful way. This brings us to the second idea…


  • Pair a target word with something meaningful – an action, label, descriptor, comment, or spatial concept. Rather than trying to teach a word without context, we can teach new words in the moment, when the word we’re using is visually represented.

For example, during play with blocks, you could target…

Action – “put on”, “crash”

Label – “block”, “tower”

Descriptor – “blue one”, “so tall”

Comment – “oh no!”, “uh oh”

Spatial Concept – “on top”, “fall down”

3. FLOOR TIME (Last, but not least!)

  • Sitting on the floor with a child offers so many advantages.

  • When modeling words/phrases, the child can look directly at the adult’s mouth, which makes it more likely that the child will imitate the word

  • Sitting on the floor makes play more fun! The child has a play partner who can facilitate their play, take turns with them, and model new language

  • It is much easier to keep a child engaged when you’re sitting right beside them, rather than on a different plane or across the room. Most children prefer to play with someone else, especially someone they care about. We can also quickly redirect them if they become distracted, or change the activity if needed.


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