As parents of children with hearing loss we often forget about the importance of play in the lives of our children. When we sit down at their yearly review –whether it’s for an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) our children are presented to us in terms of skills acquired, goals needed to be met, and age appropriate markers. Play is often an overlooked component of a child’s intellectual, social, emotional, and linguistic development (Stewart & Clarke, 2003).
But play is a way to meet your child on his own terms, where he can be free to explore and create. It’s a way to engage in language and literacy in a non-threatening space whether you are creating imaginary worlds out of Lego, or taking a walk and looking for leaves.
Here are some ways to put a little more language into your play:
Theme of the week: grab a plastic bin and put in an assortment of related objects. One week it could be animals, the next week different colored items, cooking utensils, or art supplies. Change the contents frequently. Make these child accessible starting from the youngest age. Help your child organize the contents of the box. What stories can she tell? What are the objects for? What can she create?
There’s no app for that: While there are numerous educational apps and computer software programs, and many of them are very good, there is still no substitute for the learning and language that occurs when people are engaged with each other. So instead of pulling out the iPad the next time you need to get some work done around the house, or while you are out running errands invite your child to join you instead. There are great language moments in so many daily activities: grocery shopping (what kind of vegetables should we buy for dinner? Should we buy red or green apples?); laundry (please put all the red shirts in the washing machine first); and baking cookies (check out the speechandlanguagekids.com for some tips on baking and language).
Don’t always be there for your child: at least not when it comes to play. Encourage independent play. Open ended toys are the best for this for example, a box of puppets, cardboard boxes for building, dress up clothes, open ended art supplies such as clay, paints, markers, construction paper.