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Thursday, December 6, 2018

How Play Helps Children Develop 5 Different Types of Communication

Photo by John Wilkinson (Flickr)

While listening to my girls play together on the swing set the other afternoon, I realized how much they communicate as they have fun. They talked, laughed, argued, and reconciled as they built block castles, colored pictures, and kicked the soccer ball together. This afternoon of communication prompted me to think of all the ways our kids communicate, and I realized that play is very important to our kids' development. That's because children learn five different types of communication as they play.

Oral Communication

Holding conversations, expressing emotions, negotiating, and exchanging ideas are all forms of oral communication kids develop during playtime. Our children learn how to talk to their peers and adults as they play games, role-play, and sing. We can promote communication skills in our kids when we introduce imitative songs, offer interactive toys like trains, dolls, and puppets, and ask open-ended questions as we play.

Nonverbal Communication

Often, what we communicate through our facial expressions, eye contact, and body language is as important as the words we verbalize. Our kids develop their nonverbal communication skills through dance, art, books, and pretend play. We can start teaching this valuable skill as we smile and interact with our kids when they're babies. As our kids grow, we can point out nonverbal communication in book illustrations, practice acting out different emotions, and identify different types of body language as we play games.

Visual Communication

Our early ancestors mastered the art of visual communication as they used rock art, hieroglyphics, and other pictures to represent words or concepts. Visual communication continues to be important for our kids today because they can use pictures, graphs, and charts to share ideas and illustrate their thoughts and emotions. We help kids understand visual communication as we encourage them to color, draw, create videos, and represent objects with pictures.


Over the past two years, my younger daughter has developed into an amazing storyteller. She has learned to use descriptive language that brings the story to life, and she follows a logical sequence of events. I enjoy listening to her stories, and this skill has improved her reading, comprehension, and writing ability, too. As I think back to how her storytelling skills have developed, I can point to play as the catalyst. Reading books, singing songs, and role-playing introduces our kids to sequences, sentence structure, repetition, vocabulary, memory, and expressive language, essential aspects of successful storytelling.

Written Communication

My older daughter writes almost constantly. In addition to writing essays for school, she writes poetry and journals her personal feelings. She needs to know how to use her written communication skills for success in school and in her personal life, and play has helped her develop this skill. Play exposes our kids to numerous functional texts as they make pretend grocery lists, draw signs for zoo animals, and write letters to mail at their imaginary post office. Kids can also practice their spelling through word games. Also, we can encourage our kids to write a book or dictate a book for us to write and then draw the illustrations as we prompt stronger written communication skills.

Our kids need to know how to communicate, and they learn five different types of communication as they play. For this reason, let's promote play. How does play help your kids learn to communicate?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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