Play Time: A Fun Way to Improve Your Child’s Communication Skills!

By Roxane Bélanger, M.O.A., SLP-C, Reg. CALSPO, Speech Language Pathologist, First Words Ottawa and Renfrew County January 12, 2022

Children love to play. To quote Maria Montesorri, “play is a child’s work”. In fact, children learn so much through play. 

Play builds various speech and language skills for all kids of all ages. Babies explore through play. Little ones love to play by using all their senses to explore objects. This helps them learn the names of things and how things work. Toddlers begin to imitate the adults around them and they learn early to pretend play. Preschoolers play cooperatively with their peers and their play becomes more complex. They learn many social communication skills through games. For example, a child might seek out a playmate, follow a set of rules, negotiate, take turns, cooperate and accept (or not!) a game’s outcome at the end. 

All those skills are closely linked to communication. Since we know that children learn more when they are engaged in activities that interest them, playing is one of the best tools.

It is never too soon to start playing with your child.

With the holidays just behind us, you and your child are left with time to explore the new and the old toys in your house. Here are some simple tips to ensure children are getting the most out of play.

  • Let your child lead the play where ever possible.
  • Offer different sensory activities. Children can learn descriptive vocabulary and concepts from playing with sand, water and other textures.
  • Provide blocks and manipulative activities to demonstrate cause and effect, spatial concepts and problem-solving.
  • Encourage dramatic play. Storytelling, role-playing and pretending allow children to practice language skills.
  • Incorporate familiar items such as pictures of your family, objects from elements of nature (e.g. kitchen whips, pine cones, seashells).
  • Make activity centres "literacy-rich" by labelling furniture and materials and by including books, magazines, flyers and writing materials.
  • Join in your child’s play and help them think of new possibilities by making suggestions or asking questions.
  • Play cooperative games that involve gestures, social skills and taking turns.
  • Provide a balance of child and adult-directed play.
  • Be playful and creative! Your child will follow your lead.

For more information on play:

Recognizing speech and language problems early on is the best approach!

Check out our First Words Communication Checkup tool to know if your child is

meeting communication milestones. Refer online if necessary. For more information, visit or call Ottawa Public Health at (613) PARENTS.