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Language and Play for Young Children

There are tremendous opportunities for language development through different types of play. Through play with toys and everyday objects, children discover that they can make things happen. What kind of play opportunities can you provide to help your child develop language? Here are some ideas.

~When you provide your child with a wide range of household objects as well as toys to explore, they learn about shapes, sounds, colors, and textures.


~Physical play and rough-and-tumble games give your child experiences with movement and space. This helps him develop an understanding of the meaning of action words (throw, kick, run, jump) and prepositions (up, down, on, in, under).

~Real experiences and everyday routines are very important for the development of children’s imaginary play, vocabulary, and language. Words are symbols. Children have to be able to think symbolically before they can make sense of language. Pretending to give a doll, teddy, or person a drink from a cup is one of the first steps of symbolic play.

~Learning to play together is an essential part of early communication. Children learn language and social skills from each other and spark off imaginative ideas in play.

~It is also important for children to have time to play on their own and to ‘talk to themselves’. This gives them a chance to experiment with sounds and language. Younger children may babble to themselves and enjoy listening to the sounds that they make. This type of sound play is not intended for communication, but helps children work out sound patterns in their brain.

For a list of language developmental milestones for typical two-year-olds, see our checklist.

Enjoy watching your child’s unique development!