“All You Do Is Play.” Linking Play to Language Development


Therapists… How do you respond when a parent says…

“All you do is play. When are you going to teach him to talk?”

Here’s what I say…

Play is important for language development because play is a terrific way for little kids to learn (most) everything.

Followed by…

Children who don’t play with toys miss vital opportunities to acquire and practice a variety of skills, including language.

Because toddlers can’t always tell us what they know, play is our very best way to measure how a child is learning, more commonly referred to as IQ, or “how smart he is.” Professionals refer to this area of development as cognition.

While playing, toddlers develop important cognitive skills like thinking, planning, paying attention, trying new things, and remembering. These cognitive skills form the foundation for understanding what words mean and using words to communicate with others. Back in chapter one of Let’s Talk About Talking, I introduced this quote, but I want to include it here again since we’re revisiting cognition. One of my favorite quotes about language development is this:

“We cannot do anything with words until they are built on what was there before words existed.”  (Cantania)

So, when we teach a child to play, we’re building the foundation for words.

My best parent-friendly strategy for helping a child learn to play with new toys when that’s not coming naturally… for the kid or the adult… is “Play and Stay.”

You can read more about the importance of play for helping late talkers here and here.


This is an excerpt from my book Let’s Talk About Talking. It’s in stock for a few more days!! Get your copy now before it’s gone!




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