One of the best parts of being a parent is seeing the world through the eyes of your child. Children are fascinating, creative, and brilliant, but sometimes their brilliance can be perceived as "silly" to adults. Whether your child is smearing yogurt all over their face, having a tea party with their stuffed toys, or laughing hysterically after saying the word "poop," children experience the world differently than adults. Being "silly" is an important part of child development.
As a speech-language pathologist, I often work closely with wonderful, caring, parents. Some of the parents I have worked with feel uncomfortable playing on the floor with their child, engaging in pretend play, or making messes because it seems "silly." I hope today's blog will inspire you to embrace your silly side!
5 "Silly" Strategies to Build Language
1. Join in!
Does your child enjoy wearing pots for hats or making pretend cookie soup?
Whatever it is that your child enjoys, you can do it too! Your child is more likely to continue playing if you are playing with them. By including yourself in your child's play you are able to add developmentally-appropriate language to the activity. Playing together also provides opportunities to develop turn-taking skills (in conversations and in play).
"Twinkle Twinkle Little Square?"
Pick a familiar routine, such as a song, book, or play activity, and change it on them! If they know the routine well, they will likely look at you, laugh, and correct you. Sabotage is a fantastic way to build vocabulary!
3. Become a Narrator
"We are going to the grocery store. Look at this great parking spot. I am unbuckling you. Close the door..."
From the day your child is born you can be talking to them. Babies, toddlers, and children, learn language from hearing language. It may seem silly to talk to someone who isn't talking back to you yet, but your child IS listening when you talk. They are watching your lips to see how you make sounds and watching your eyes and your gestures (e.g., pointing) to connect sounds to words and words to objects. Next time you go to the grocery store with your baby talk to them about what you are doing even if it feels silly.
4. Read a Book WITHOUT Reading All the Words
"Look the eggs are green!!"
Books like, "Green Eggs and Ham" are wonderful books, but are usually written for older kids (around 4+ years old). If you try to read all the words you will often lose your child's attention by the second page. Even if a book is written for older kids, you can still read the book with your younger child in a developmentally appropriate way by reading it in a way that your child will be interested.
For babies, you can show your child how to hold a book and turn pages while talking about what you see.
For younger toddlers, you can point to pictures and talk about the pictures.
For older toddlers, you can ask them to point to certain pictures or ask simple questions about the pictures (e.g., "What is he doing?").
For school-aged children, you can read all the words if they are interested and then expand on the words. You can talk about rhymes and ask them to come up with their own silly rhymes. You can also talk about the sounds that letters make and begin sounding out words. You can ask prediction questions such as "What do you think will happen next?"
5. Pretend Play
"Elmo is so thirsty!"
As adults, we may not typically drink our tea with dolls, but for children pretend play is an important part of development. Pretend play requires your child to consider another perspective, give tasks and roles, apply knowledge to other situations, use flexible thinking, and build creativity and imagination. Pretend play is another great opportunity to incorporate using and understanding language! You can encourage pretend play by setting up pretend play opportunities and joining in.
For younger toddlers: pretend play could involve a tea party or putting a doll to bed.
For older toddlers: pretend play can involve more than one step, such as making pretend soup in a pretend kitchen (putting in the ingredients, stirring, and serving the soup).
For preschoolers and school-aged children: pretend play can involve dressing up as a doctor and pretending to care for a patient or using figurines to create a story.
Have a great weekend! #UNLEASHYOURSILLY