Every child is different, so it’s only natural that each one will grow and learn and develop at their own individual pace. While some children may begin speaking fairly early, others may struggle to develop their language skills for a while longer. Find out how playtime can actually help develop your child’s speech.

How Does Playtime Work with Language?
Speech-Language Pathologist Stephanie Finkelstein, MSc (A), S-LP (C), says that playtime is essential for a child’s learning and development. “Following your child’s lead and engaging in play that interests them – be it building with Legos, having a teddy bear picnic, or playing store – helps them to learn vocabulary words that matter in their world,” she explains. She says it allows children to practice what to say in common situations, like going to a restaurant or going to school.

Finkelstein says there is no specific amount of time parents should spend playing with their children, but rather, it’s the quality of that time together that matters most. “You really want to be face-to-face with your child, exaggerate your facial expressions, emphasize those new words, and help cue them to take their turn, even if this means them pointing to what they want, or clapping their hands for more,” she explains.

Teaching Your Child to Become an Active Learner
By engaging a child through play, they can become a more active learner. If your child is not interested in playing and prefers being plugged into their devices instead, Finkelstein suggests sitting with your child as they watch. She says it is important for the parent to engage with their child, to pause the PVR, video game or YouTube clip long enough to discuss what they’ve just seen or what they think might happen next. This encourages a passive learner to become more active learning through play.

Can Your Child Learn More than One Language?
Some parents may worry a child will not be able to take on a second language if they are experiencing difficulty in learning their mother tongue. Most researchers believe that bilingualism does not put a child at risk for a language delay or disorder. At first, a bilingual child may have a smaller vocabulary compared to a monolingual child. Bilingual children may also say their first words a lot later than monolingual children. However, bilingual children will eventually catch up and develop grammar in the same timeframe as children learning one language.

When should a parent be concerned for their child’s speech development or delay? If a child is struggling with bilingualism, they should seek out a Speech Development Specialist for both languages to correct the problems from the start. In the end, bilingualism can be achieved, even for a child who is struggling.