Using Language During Play

Using Language During Play

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends not using technology as an emotional pacifier. Parents should not hand their little one’s smartphones when they are having a meltdown. Toddlers learn to self-regulate by working through a tantrum or difficult situation.

The AAP recommends NO Television, IPAD or Smartphone under the age of 2 because images presented on the screens are too fast for young children’s developing brains. Too much screen time can contribute to speech and language delays in children under 2 years of age. The AAP also suggests that the television not be kept on for background noise. Families should create tech free zones for their babies.

A 2012 study (by Funchun et al), suggests that screen time can affect development of the frontal lobe. The frontal lobe of the brain is responsible for the development of language, problem solving, impulse control and social skills. The critical period of growth in the frontal lobe happens under the age of 3.

For children 18 months and up, Facetiming with relatives was deemed acceptable.

Want to build language? Limit Technology

A Speech Pathologist wrote, “I have seen a significant increase in deficits of attention, social skills and language processing, over the past 10 years. Could this be correlated with technology becoming more accessible over this period? It seems like caregivers themselves are less responsive to their toddler’s communication attempts. They too are distracted by incoming information in the form of texts, emails and social media.”

While multitasking can actually make us more successful and efficient (when goal directed), continuous partial attention is actually trying not to miss anything, but only paying attention on the surface. This leads to underlying stress and less efficient processing.

So how do we combat all this Technology?

Build imitation skills from infancy

Use face to face communication and directed floor play and also add language and problem solving into daily routines.

Watching and imitating is how toddlers learn!

Start by copying your child’s facial and hand expressions. Pause and see if your child imitates back. Then, model or initiate silly facial gestures like lip pops, lip rolls, lip smacks, and tongue clicks. Again, pause and see if your child imitates.

Model hand gestures like clapping, hands up, tapping table, nodding and waving. Also, initiate a gesture routine like “how big is baby” while you spread your arms out wide.

If your little one ignores you, try to guide his hands and mouth. For example, as he says “ah” in vocal play, try shaping his lower lip into a lip roll. Sing a nursery rhyme like “baby shark” and guide his hands along to the main gesture within the song.

Make your child's play imitative

While we need our tots to imitate our actions and gestures, there is also value in imitation of their actions. It validates the child as an individual, and lets him know that we care about his interests.

If he seems to just be banging 2 blocks together, grab two blocks and pair with the word “Bang” several times in a row as in “bang bang bang”. Pause and see if he continues this exchange. Then guide his hands to use the toy in a different way, as in dropping the block into a toy cup or trying to stack the 2 blocks together.

In order for a child to communicate and play together with others, it is necessary that he first be interested in people. Otherwise, he may only demonstrate solitary play.

To strengthen these skills, try playing people games like chase, peek -a- boo, tickles, bouncing, swaying, physical and/or gestural nursery rhymes. If your child is on your lap, pause in between, to gain eye contact for “more”. If you are engaged in a movement activity across the room, freeze and wait for him to come back and look up for “more”. If he ignores and doesn’t look up, turn his head and eyes up towards you, and say “more” before continuing this action.

Try not to use the T.V. for background noise, try calm background music (think classical and jazz) while your child is playing.

For interactive nursery rhymes there is something comforting about the classics. They have streaming, CD and MP3 versions.

Here is a wonderful family tutorial book that is easy for families to read. It is by Speech Language Pathologist, Molly Dresner (aka The Speech Teacher).

A friend, and fellow Speech Language Pathologist, Molly Dresner (aka The Speech Teacher) wrote a wonderful family tutorial that is easy for families to read and carry over. Below is the link.

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