Play is an important tool in helping your child’s development. Especially when they’re young, children communicate with educators and each other through play. Although play may look different as they get older, it plays an important part in your child’s overall development.
Here at ExploraToy, we’re passionate about helping parents and children make the most of playtime. In the article below, you’ll learn about how children communicate through play. We’ll also provide you with a list of six great ways to you can communicate with your kids through play.
How Play & Communication Intersect
When your child plays, he or she isn’t just doing something they enjoy. Play is a necessary element that nurtures your child’s development of intellect, cognition, and motivation. It’s during play that your children learn to express themselves and communicate their wants and needs.
Because of this, play becomes a “language” of sorts for you and your child to learn to communicate with each other. Especially during the toddler and preschool years, children are learning a massive amount of information. Communication is one of the most important things your child will learn during playtime.
Pretend play, for example, is a powerful way for children to experiment and express themselves. During this type of play, they discover their likes and dislikes. It also helps them to put themselves in others’ shoes, which is a critical skill to help them develop empathy and emotional intelligence.
6 Ways to Communicate with Kids Through Play
Sometimes it’s hard to think of ways to improve the way you communicate with your child through play, so we’ve come up with six easy ways to significantly improve the communication between you and your child.
- Enjoy pretend play.
Pretend play is one of the best ways to encourage your child to communicate. Child-led creative play can be especially helpful, since you allow your child to imagine the storyline for your pretend play. Since they set the pace for the interactions, you won’t have to coax every word from them.
Whether you do this by playing with dolls or enjoying dress-up time, pretend play is one of the best ways to improve communication with your child.
- Ask open-ended questions while playing.
To help your child develop communication skills, ask open-ended questions while you play. For example, if you’re putting together the ExploraToy Noah’s Ark puzzle, you can ask your child open-ended questions like “Which animal is your favorite? Why?” and “Which animal do you think is the biggest?” These questions will help them articulate preferences and observations.
- Provide options if your child struggles with open-ended questions and options.
Some children will struggle to answer open-ended questions. For example, some children may struggle to come up with an answer to the questions listed in the point above. However, you might rephrase the question with options. Instead of asking “Which animal do you think is the biggest?” you might ask “Which is bigger: the squirrel or the hippo?”
- Play with dolls, stuffed animals, or puppets.
Dolls, stuffed animals, puppets, and other open-ended toys are great for communicating with your child during play. These types of toys allow you to each take on a “character” during your playtime. In some cases, your child might find it easier to talk through their character than in regular conversation.
This type of play helps them their thoughts, ideas, feelings, and wishes. Pay attention to what your child says during play to gain a better insight into how their minds work.
- Follow their lead.
Whether your child is 2 or 12, follow their lead when it comes to communications during play. For example, allow conversation to flow naturally while playing a game (such as ExploraToy’s Wooden Connect 4 Game).
If your child wants to talk about their friends from school while playing, take that as a cue to ask questions about what they’re interested in discussing. They’ll learn that you care about what they like and you’ll benefit from open communication in the future.
- Set aside time to play (and turn off the technology).
When your children are young, they need plenty of playtime to help navigate the world around them. Make sure to set aside time to play with your child on a daily basis. Even when you have a busy schedule, do your best to spend at least thirty minutes of uninterrupted playtime each day.
Technology is great, but it often leaves us with divided attention. When possible, set aside your phone to enjoy playtime with your child. This will teach them about how to hold a conversation, maintain good eye contact, and so much more.
Setting aside regular time to play with your child is one of the best things you can do to improve your relationship and teach them how to communicate. Whether you’re enjoying open-ended pretend play or sitting together and building a puzzle, play offers rich opportunities to communicate with your child.
If you’re looking for great toys to help enrich your child’s playtime and help you make space to communicate with your child, we’re here to help. At ExploraToy, we believe that high-quality toys are a great investment in your child’s future and their development. Check out our full selection of toys here.