#282 11 Skills Toddlers Must Use Before Words Emerge – #5 Develop Early Play Skills


Listen below to the 8th show in this series called “11 Skills Toddlers Must Use Before Words Emerge.” Today we’ll be talking about skill #5 which is developing early play skills.

Learning to play with toys and begin to use objects functionally is a skill that emerges along with first words so it’s an important marker.

Play is the best way to measure a child’s cognitive development. Cognitive skills include how a toddler thinks, remembers, and learns. Cognition is important for language because how a child “learns to learn” is the foundation for talking – both for understanding and then using words to communicate. During play when a toddler masters the very important early cognitive concepts such as object permanence, cause & effect, and simple problem solving, we know that he is learning more and more about how the world works and is much more likely to talk than a toddler who does not yet perform these skills.

As I stated in the earlier paragraph, in typical language development, a toddler begins to understand and use words around the same time (or shortly after) she acquires these 3 cognitive skills. I like to think about early play skills as going “hand-in-hand” with first words.

Experiences (which includes play) are how we teach a toddler EVERYTHING so we do have to work with some children to begin to teach them how to play with toys. Sometimes parents are surprised when they realize that the reason their child doesn’t play with toys isn’t because he doesn’t like toys. It’s more likely that he doesn’t understand HOW to play.

Listen to the show above for the better explanations of the 3 cognitive skills listed above and specific ways to work on those early play skills with late talkers. You’ll also hear me talk about the word “variety” and get some great ideas for helping a toddler who seems to be “stuck” in play make some progress toward expanding not only the different toys he plays with, but increasing the number of things he can do with a preferred toy.

On the show I forgot to mention one very important thing… sometimes a child doesn’t know he likes a toy until he’s actually played with it a few times. This means you may have to (gently and pleasantly) force him to do it at least a few times. I’ve had lots of children who didn’t play with toys begin to play with help and then independently, but only AFTER we helped (made!) them do it a few times. I’ll begin next week’s show by talking about this point and how this should look with toddlers. If you’d like to see some examples of me using this “pleasantly persistent” technique, check out my DVDs Teach Me To Talk, Teach Me To Listen and Obey, or Teach Me To Talk with Apraxia.

I also extended this topic for another week in #283 Part 2 for Early Play Skills. Listen here!

In case you’ve missed the other shows in this series, catch up here:

#275 Introduction Show – Why These Skills are Important

#276 Overview of Skills 1 – 5

#277 Overview of Skills 6 – 11

#278 Responds to Things in the Environment

#279 Responds to People

#280 Building an Attention Span

#281 Developing Joint Attention


Ready to move on…

Here’s the next show:

#283 Early Play  Skills Part 2

I hope you’re enjoying this series! Leave me a comment if you have a question. I’d love to hear from you!



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1 Comment

  1. Gloria Caner on April 11, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    Thanks Laura
    I am enjoying this series

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