Essentially, play is the child’s occupation. It contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of infants’ and young children’s development. It is how they make sense of the world. Play activities represent an important part of every child’s life and is vital for the enjoyment of childhood as well as for the growth of their abilities and developmental skills, and language is indeed one of the most important skills that children learn while they play. Play is a great opportunity for children to attach meaning to words and build their vocabulary. Parents and carers can give language inputs every day through simple comments about what a child is doing, adding a word or phrase to the child’s short phrases. Repeating a different word, introducing a synonym, modeling the structure of a sentence: these are simple examples of how adults can support the development of speech during play activities. For example, if a child says: “Car”, the carer may say: “This is a big car”. Or if a child says: “Car”, the carer can say: “The car is going fast!”
Playing, children learn nouns, verbs (what objects do) and adjectives (how to describe the objects that are playing with). Parents and carers have a very important role in giving their children the words they need.
Reading books with children represents an interactive activity with many opportunities to facilitate language and memory skills. There are many types of books surely able to capture the attention of children: e.g. pop-up books, or books with simple pictures or textures. When the young child skips the pages looking only at the pictures, the adults should take the opportunity to talk about the pictures and ask questions allowing the child to make comments about what these pictures represent (colours, shapes, size, etc). Older children often like to read the same book repeatedly. Through repetition of the book reading, they have also the opportunity to share thoughts during the reading and develop a sense of story sequence. This should be an opportunity to ask questions about the story and the characters requiring the child to practice his/her communicative skills.
The act of repeating words led us to another important play activity that should be consider for the development of children’s speech skills: singing songs. This is a fun, recreative, interactive way for children to learn language. Songs can include very common songs like: “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or can be easily made up just looking at the activities a child is doing at the time. Singing songs provides more words to add to vocabulary through repetition and creates opportunities for turn taking. Turn taking routine can facilitate the communication skills: for example, the carer/parent can ask the child to fill in key words in the songs.
Also playing musical instruments is a great way to develop children’s communication development. Instruments can be used in games to encourage listening and attention skills. Listening to music and making music together are other easy activities that can also provide a bonding experience. For example, tapping or shaking in time with some music will introduce children to the concept of rhythm, and making instruments is not difficult at all: dry rice and pasta or raw lentils in an empty plastic bottle simply and quickly makes a great shaker. Babies and young children love to make noise with an instrument. This will encourage self-expression and it enables them to share their feelings about what they are doing.
Today, many young children are perhaps too confident in using tablets, smartphones and other devices. Moreover, many nurseries have invested in digital technology so that all children are provided with the same learning opportunities. They have identified the need for certain digital equipment in order to help all children, with particular regard to those with disadvantages