4 Ways to Boost Language Skills Through Playing Games
Elizabeth Walsh, MS, SLP, CCC is a New York State Licensed Speech Language Pathologist who has been practicing for over 15 years. Elizabeth holds an undergraduate degree in Communication Disorders from State University of New York College at Cortland and a Graduate Degree in Speech Language Pathology from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. Her latest adventure has been creating Minds That Play, a company that creates children’s games that put an emphasis on non tech-based games.
Elizabeth has worked in a variety of pediatric settings from schools, day cares, and homes before starting her own private practice where she specialized in working with toddlers, school aged children, and their families to help them meet their true communication potential. Elizabeth emphasizes the importance of working as a team with families, schools, and other professionals to help treat the whole child.
As the world moves more and more toward the use of technology for communication, entertainment, and day to day tasks, Elizabeth wants to make sure there is still focus on the human connection that is achieved through play and face to face interactions. Elizabeth has taken her expertise and drive to hold onto in person interactions to create simple, fun games that help develop language and create opportunities for children to interact with friends and family.
Playing Card Games with Little Ones Has Big Benefits
Cognitive Skills – identifying numbers, shapes and symbols and matching “like with like”
Emotional Skills – learning how to lose while still having fun
Social Skills – promotes turn taking and conversations
Gross & Fine Motor Skills – holding and manipulating a handful of cards involves plenty of practice
Minds that Play’s goal is to help promote family bonding time with games that encourage development while having fun.
As we continue to spend more time as a family, there’s never been a better time to engage your little ones in some creative, non-screen related downtime. It’s so easy to grab a device when we have a few extra minutes, but it’s important for families to connect in new and innovative ways. When you think of good old-fashioned games, you think fun, but did you know they also promote learning and growth.
As many studies have demonstrated, children learn through play and fun interactions with others. Parents are becoming aware of the need to limit screen time and are often looking for ways to help their children learn new vocabulary. ALL games can be used for learning language. This may seem counterintuitive, but it is not the game that is teaching your child, it’s you!
Games keep children engaged, so they are more focused and will learn with more ease so always remember to:
When you sit down to play a game with your child, remember that they are modeling your language, so it is important to use specific language and not vague terms. For example, if your child asks where the starting point on a board game is, rather than pointing and saying “there,” tell them exactly where the start space is; “the green square in the bottom corner.” As you are playing, talk about where the game pieces are moving and to describe where things on the board are located, using phrases like, “near, next to, past, or beyond.” Using simple sentences with specific words is more effective in teaching new vocabulary than long descriptions.
Game boards offer many opportunities to model a variety of specific words as you move through them from beginning to end. You can use prepositions to discuss where things on the board are located and nouns to talk about the pictures on the boards. For example, instead of saying things like “I’m here.” Say, “I’m next to the blue river.” You can use a variety of verbs, too. Each time you move you can switch the word you are using. (For example, you can say, “I’m going to jump to the next space, slide, hop, scoot, run.”) Use anticipatory language like “I hope I get green so I can be close to the garden.” Avoid using phrases like “that picture is cool,” and try adding an adjective by saying “that picture of the castle is colorful.”
Explain as You Play
Even explaining the rules of a game is a great occasion to model sequential language. Use words like first, next, and then to list the steps in the game. As the children get older, have them explain the game to you. You can always pretend you forget the rules and have your child refresh your memory on the set up and how to play. When having your child explain the set up and rules to you, encourage them to use specific terms like “the blue cards go in the middle of the board.” Instead of “these go there.” Immediate feedback gives kids the chance to reason through how they want to phrase things.
Vary your Phrases
Children are constantly learning language from the adults and caregivers they interact with daily, so by being mindful of the words you use when engaging with your child, you can promote new vocabulary at any time. Try to change the way you phrase what you are saying so you are not repeating the same phrases over and over. This may be difficult to do throughout the entire day, but if you designate times to focus on the type of language you are using, it is much more manageable.
Above all else, remember that game time is about having fun and making memories with your children!