Language Development and Playtime

By Deanna Kelly

“Play has been called, “the work of children” because it is through play that children learn how to interact in their environment, discover their interests, and acquire cognitive, motor, speech, language, and social-emotional skills.” (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2007)

Children observe, listen, imitate, and investigate while playing; they also formulate/make use of language with intention during play. It’s important that you engage your child during playtime by doing things they find interesting. Follow your child’s lead, because the more interested they are in the activity the more opportunity for acquisition of language.

Playtime is a great way to practice your child’s turn-taking skills as well. With infants you can coo and smile then wait for a cooing response back, with toddlers or pre-school aged children, you can take turns using certain toys, and with older children you can incorporate more structured games or board games to facilitate turn taking skills. Playing games can be taken one step further to incorporate asking questions, use of body language, and facial expression, which will only increase your child’s exposure to all aspects of language.

Playtime offers a unique opportunity to correct and expand your child’s language. During play you act as a model for correct grammar and can increase your child’s vocabulary, while giving them a context for the words they are learning. Playtime is the perfect occasion to teach your child the give and take of conversation by offering commentary to what they say or do, as well as expanding upon their words or phrases.

Here are some examples of how to expand language:

Child: “truck”                                      Adult: “Yes, a small truck”

Child: “truck”                                      Adult: “Go truck, Go!”

Child: “He wented fast”                   Adult: “Yes, it went fast”

Child: “That’s a big truck!”              Adult: Ýes, that’s a huge truck!”

Singing songs and reading books are great interactive ways to help your child learn language. Songs are great for memory, and if you incorporate movements or signs, you also strengthen your child’s motor skills. You can sing songs at bath time, while cleaning up after play, or while getting your child ready for school. There are plenty of times throughout the day when you can incorporate a fun or educational song.

Reading books is a great time to teach your child how to infer while reading, by asking who, what, when, where, and why questions about the text. Another idea is to use the pictures in books to inspire your child to tell you a sentence or short story based on what they see.

Singing the same songs and reading the same books help your child to master certain vocabulary words, showcase their expressive language skills, and begin to understand sequencing of stories, and sentence structure; so start singing and reading!

Playtime is when children learn about the world and how they fit into it. It’s a time for them to test boundaries and create, to discover what does and does not work, as well as what acceptable behavior is. It’s when children experiment with the language and social skills they are learning, making it the ideal time for parents to reinforce specific behaviors and assist in the language development of their children.





Blog by Marguerite Bonadies

Stuttering is a communication disorder characterized by an interruption in fluent speech. Stuttering typically emerges in childhood (known as developmental stuttering), although it can develop in adults following a neurological or psychological event. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, roughly 5% of all people stutter for some period during life.[1] Stuttering is more prevalent in preschool age children than older children, and tends to be more common in boys than girls. There is no definitive cause of developmental stuttering, however research has shown some impact of neurophysiology and genetics.

Everyone stutters occasionally. Some people may use interjections like “um” and “like” often, while others may tend to revise their thoughts mid-sentence. These everyday moments of stuttering or “disfluency” are referred to as non stuttering-like. To be considered a person who stutters, one must display a significant amount of disfluencies characterized as stuttering-like.  Below are several types of stuttering-like disfluencies with definitions and examples:


Part word repetitions Part of a word (typically the first syllable) is repeated Ca-ca-can you help me find something?
Single syllable word repetitions A one syllable word is repeated I-I-I-I don’t know
Prolongations One sound in a word is held for a long period of time My name is Ssssssssarah
Blocks Initially no sound is made and oral tension is present. After time, the sound is produced. I have to……go


Moments of disfluency may also be accompanied by secondary behaviors, which are sometimes methods of combating the stutter but are also often unintentional. Some examples of secondary behaviors include facial grimacing, noisy breathing, excessive blinking, and other facial ticks.[1] A child with awareness of his stuttering may also develop avoidance behaviors as a coping mechanism. Examples of these behaviors include avoiding words with difficult sounds, minimal eye contact during conversation, or not speaking at all.[1]

A speech-language pathologist will also consider the amount of time the child has been stuttering and any related family history, and may complete both formal (e.g., testing) and informal (e.g., observation with parents) assessment in diagnosing stuttering. The number and frequency of disfluencies, the length of time spent in a moment of disfluency, and the presence of secondary and/or avoidance behaviors will also be considered.

Depending on the age of a child and his awareness of his stuttering, stuttering therapy can involve a speech-language pathologist, the child’s parents, and the child himself.  Stuttering therapy for preschool children greatly emphasizes parent training, as parents are a very young child’s most common conversational partners. General recommendations for parents of children who stutter include minimizing time pressures for the child’s response, not completing the child’s sentences, and demonstrating or “modeling” of fluent speech. A trained speech-language pathologist can develop a specific treatment plan for an individual child, and can provide further resources and recommendations for parents.

Further Reading and Resources:

[1]Stuttering. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

-The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association provides an excellent and highly detailed resource about stuttering and related disorders of fluency.

 [2]Stuttering Foundation | Since 1947 – A Nonprofit Organization Helping Those Who Stutter.

-This website provides general facts about stuttering and gives resources for parents, children, teenagers, and adults who stutter

[3]National Stuttering Association (NSA): Stuttering Help.

-The National Stuttering Association provides a variety of informative resources as well as information regarding conferences and local chapters. This is a great place to find information about becoming involved in advocacy, as well.