Babies grow and develop so much in the first few years of life. This development continues as babies become toddlers. Fortunately, it doesn’t take expensive toys to help your child progress. Better yet, you can help them learn though play using these easy tips from our Early Intervention experts.
“I get asked, ‘what kinds of toys do I need to buy’ [for my child]?” Summit DD Developmental Specialist, Melissa Jarvis began. “The good news is that you don’t have to buy special toys. You can use items you already have.” Jarvis went on to explain that it becomes less about the toy, and more about how an item is presented and used. You can use everyday items that you may have laying around, such as kitchen utensils, pots and pans, cups or boxes. Believe it or not, these common items can help your child’s motor and communication skills.
In her role as a Developmental Specialist, Melissa shows families proven ways to enhance their child’s learning and development. She will also works with a team of experts behind the scenes to bring additional strategies to parents that they can practice in any natural environment, such as the family’s home.
“What you want to do is pair sound with play,” Jarvis explained. “When a word or sound is paired with an action, kids learn quicker.” She noted that while some kids may be ready for words to be paired with an action, others may not. If your child isn’t quite ready for a full word or phrase, that’s ok too. Try using simple sounds that you can build on to produce words later.
She added that these tips are helpful to all kids – with or without a developmental disability. Jarvis explained that opportunities to engage or interact, and sound rich environments are the communication building blocks that help kids communicate with the world around them. By using play, kids enjoy learning and practicing these communication skills. Jarvis said the goal is to get your child to vocalize and imitate sounds and actions while you engage and keep them interested.
Jarvis pointed out that it’s important for parents and caregivers to give their child time to mimic and vocalize. Instead of answering for your child, Jarvis suggests pausing to let your child participate. “As adults, we like to fill silence with words,” she stated. “But many kids need that time to process.”
Below are a few tips Melissa offered that you can use at home to help your child learn through play.
- Start a band: It’s hard to always be quiet, so give your child a chance to let their inner rock star out. Let your child bang on a pot or pan with a plastic or wooden kitchen utensil. You can pair any number of words or sounds such as, “bang.”
- Play ball: Sit on the floor with your child. Show them a ball and gently roll it toward them. Pair the phrase, “roll the ball” as you begin to roll the ball. You can add a sound like, “weeeee” while the ball is rolling to help add additional communication with the action. Encourage your child to follow your lead, and “cheer” the ball on together as it rolls.
- Knock it down: Every child likes to tip things over. This is your chance to use it as a learning game. Have your child help you stack empty boxes or blocks. You can make towers, pyramids, or any shape you choose. While building your tower, say things like, “Up, up, up,” that can help narrate the action. Then you and your child can have fun knocking everything over while yelling, “boom!”
Interested in more tips from the experts? Check out additional articles on SummitDD.org.