Baby's First Year · Parenting

First words: The power of play time

Family Having Fun Outdoors At Winter Time. Father and son making snowman and enjoying the winter day.

Before having my own children, I didn’t enjoy the winter.  However, I quickly realized that once you dress warmly, it’s fun to get outside and play like a child again. And…there is so much to talk about!

You can make a difference in the way that your child learns their first words.

As a Speech-Language Pathologist, I encourage my clients to interact, respond and model language to their child in their natural environment. When you do this, you are showing your child that you are interested in what they are doing, and ultimately this interaction will help your child say their first word. It also helps your child learn new words and language without noticing that you’re working on developing or expanding their vocabulary.

Get outside and explore! Enjoy winter play, and most of all, have fun with your child!

While you play outside, try to keep the following six language stimulation strategies in mind to support your child’s learning:

  1. Follow your child’s lead
  2. Try to be face-to-face with your child
  3. Model language one level above your child (e.g., if your child currently does not use words to communicate, use single words)
  4. Label and model words from different categories (e.g. names of objects/people, action words, words that describe)
  5. Wait for your child to comment, react, or ask for more with a gesture or a word
  6. Create situations to encourage your child to communicate

Winter activities you can do with your child:

Building a snowman

  • While you are helping your child build a snowman, talk about what you are doing.
  • Model some of the following words and make the interaction fun
    • Action words- roll, push
    • Body parts- eyes, nose, mouth, hands
    • Clothing items- hat, scarf, shoes (get creative)
    • Descriptive words: on, big, little, up, cold

Catching snowflakes

  • Run around and catch snowflakes with your child
  • Make the interaction fun by catching the snowflakes with different body parts
    • Provide a choice between two body parts to help encourage your child to interact (e.g., Ask your child if they want to catch the snowflake with their hands or feet)
    • Model action words: catch, stomp, eat
    • Body parts: feet, hands, finger, tongue, nose, head
    • Spatial concepts: up/down
    • Social phrases: my turn, your turn, this is fun!

For more suggestions, please watch this video about First Words by The Hanen Centre:

If you have concerns about your preschool child’s communication milestones please contact Early Abilities or fill out the self-referral form to access our speech and language services.

As of April 1, 2022 the Preschool Speech and Language, Blind-Low Vision and Infant Hearing programs have moved from Toronto Public Health (Early Abilities) to Surrey Place. To register for services or learn more about the programs, please visit Surrey Place or call 416-925-5141.

2 thoughts on “First words: The power of play time

  1. Love this! Play time is something so magical and extremely undervalued by adults. It’s something all children do naturally, without meaning or outcome yet has a world of ever changing potential. If only more adults could reflect on their childhood and appreciate the worth of children’s play and silliness!

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