How can I enhance my child’s communication through play?

Play is the way through which children interact with their environment, it provides them with opportunities to feel, think, create and negotiate. As a parent, you can use play to help your child to improve his/her communication skills.Below, are eight simple strategies that you can use as you play with your child.

Imitate positive play.Does your child love to run, kick the ball, throw the ball, play with dolls or dance?You can join and imitate him or her as they engage in these activities. For example, as you throw the ball, you can say “throw”. As you copy your child’s dance moves, you can say “hands in the air”, “go down”, “go up”, “turn around” and many other words that you can come up with depending on the dance movements that they are making. As you imitate your child, you encourage them to copy you. Do not imitate negative behavior like throwing things, beating or bitingRecite rhymes and sing songs.Sit close to your child so that they can see and hear you.

Recite rhymes and sing songs that your child favors (loves to watch or hums to). You can add in some new ones as well and sing them in a fun way doing actions where possible. The idea is to show your child that you are enjoying yourself.Describe the activity being done.As your child plays, you can run a commentary on what they are doing. “George is opening the door”, “Clara is sitting on the carpet.”, “vroom vroom” the major reason for this strategy is to expose your child to as many words as you can so that they store them in their language bank. As you put them in situations where they have to communicate, they will reproduce what they have stored up!

Use exaggerated gestures.Use your voice and body as you communicate. Nod your head when you say yes and shake your head when you say no. Smile brightly, jump up and down as you celebrate a win in the game (or do what your child does when they win in an exaggerated way)

Respond to gestures immediately.Respond immediately when your child pulls your hand, taps you, shows you something, walks into the room etc. this way, your child will experience the power of communication. Remember gestures and eye contact are building blocks for communication. Your immediate response to them will encourage your child to use them more. If your child points at a toy, pick it up and give it to him/her immediately. You can imitate this by pointing at another object before you pick it up.

Reward child’s effort.A reward can be a new toy, a hug, praise, time with a favorite toy, carrying the child up on your head etc. use activities/toys that your child loves to reward them when they make an effort to communicate for example if your child who is non-verbal shakes his head to indicate ‘no’, you can give them a smile or use your words to praise them. “I am happy that you are shaking your head to tell me no”. remember to name the effort that you are rewarding them for.

Give child time to respond.When you ask your child a question, give them a few seconds to respond. Remember that they can respond either verbally or non-verbally. For example, if you ask, “where is the car” give your child time to process your question and give you a response. If they don’t, you can model by pointing at the car and saying.” There”Use simple language.Use simple language to make imitation easy. If your child is not using their words yet, use one word like dog, door, car, push, etc. If your child can say one word like ‘car’ use two ‘yellow car’, ‘drive car’, ‘push car’ etc. the point is to use one more word than that your child is using.

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