Babies typically say their first word by 12 to 18 months of age, and it sure doesn't take long for their verbal skills to take off! I remember my older daughter talking up a storm by the time she turned two. Meanwhile, my younger daughter preferred non-verbal communication and didn't say her first word until she was almost two. No matter when your kids start to talk, play helps them develop important verbal and non-verbal communication skills in several ways.
Develop the Foundations of Verbal Language
Don't you love hearing babies coo as you sing, read, or talk to them? Those sounds form the foundation of a child's speaking ability. That's why you should talk to babies and kids of all ages often. Babies and toddlers watch your lips and imitate what they hear, so use regular words rather than baby talk. Play plenty of games like patty cake, and read books, too.
Read Body Language
Have you ever noticed how babies watch their caregivers carefully? They're taking mental notes and learning how to read body language, an important non-verbal communication skill. When kids can read body language, they understand that a smile means someone is pleased and crossed arms may mean that a friend is angry. These inferences improve a child's ability to communicate without words.
I loved watching my young girls squeal with excitement, but I remember their frustrations when they were hungry or tired. I was grateful when they could finally tell me what they were feeling! Play helps kids develop the ability to express their emotions properly. Use puppets, dress-up, and dolls as you expose your kids to different emotions and teach them the right way to express their feelings.
Learn New Vocabulary Words
Preschool was a huge verbal learning experience. It seemed like my daughters learned new words every day as they played with their peers. Kids also learn new words and phrases as they play at home. If possible, introduce a variety of toys to your kids. Their vocabulary will grow as they operate a train, cook on a pretend stove, and draw a spaceship.
While playing with a rattle, babies learn that it makes a sound when they shake it. When toddlers roll a ball to you, they learn that you will roll it back. These two activities are examples of how play teaches cause and effect as well as how to take turns. This foundational skill is essential for communication. It equips kids to be patient, polite, and considerate as they talk with others.
I've always wanted to empower my girls to share their thoughts and opinions. To do this, they have to know and verbalize what they like. Play is essential for helping kids discover and share their opinions. While enjoying a variety of objects and games, they discover their preference for word, action, or strategy games. They also learn if they like leading, following, or peace-keeping. Make-believe play can even help our kids develop career interests and goals as it equips kids to share opinions on a variety of topics.
I'm a big fan of play for many reasons, including the ways it helps kids develop verbal and nonverbal communication skills. How has play helped your child become a better communicator?
Find more about the author: Kim Hart