Friday, May 22, 2015

Why We Play {BHSM Part 3}

Hello! Welcome to Part 3 of my Early Intervention series in honor of Better Hearing and Speech Month. 

You can find Part 1, Why Early Intervention? here, where you can enter to win a copy of Teach Me to Talk: The Therapy Manual. 

Part 2, Being a Bagless SLP, can be found here.

Play. When you think of the word play, what do you imagine? Do you see kids running around the park? Maybe you see them blowing bubbles in the backyard, or kicking a ball back and forth. 

The Oxford Dictionary defines play as follows: "To engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose." The first part of that definition makes sense, right? When we play, we are doing the activity for fun. We aren't forced to do it, we want to do it because we enjoy it. 

It's the second part of that definition that I have problems with- "rather than a serious or practical purpose." You see, as an Early Intervention therapist, play is both serious and practical. Not serious in the sense of stern and uptight, but rather in the sense of importance. 

Children not only have fun during play, but they learn during play. You aren't going to find many 2 or 3 year-olds that will sit at a table and work on flashcards or a worksheet. You will, however, find 2 and 3 year-olds engaging in play. 

Using a child's natural instincts to play, we can target all of our speech and language goals. From establishing eye contact, to joint attention, to that first word, there is no better way to learn than through actively participating. Children are also more likely to learn when they are doing something that they enjoy.  

Don't limit play to just the birth-three population, though. Children continue to play, and continue to learn, through their school age years. Work on past tense verbs by acting out a story that happened yesterday, practice organization and narrative skills while the ninja turtles are battling the bad guy, work on those s-blends while slithering your snakes around the speech room. The only thing holding us back is our own imaginations. Our kids already possess the tools to learn through play, so let's let them learn.

How do you target skills through play? What else would you like to know about learning through play?

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