It's Not "Just Play"
It is through play that children learn how to interact in their environment, discover their interests, and acquire cognitive, motor, speech, language, and social-emotional skills (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2007).
Over the last ten years, ‘play’ has become a huge part of my world and I would not have it any other way. Child-centered play therapy is the foundation of my day to day speech, language, and even feeding therapy sessions. Children learn through play by using their imagination to grow and thrive.
As our world becomes more engrossed in technology, our children are losing opportunities to go outside and learn through experience. As a speech and feeding therapist, I am here to tell you play is essential to your child’s overall development. Child-centered play therapy may look like “just play” but the play is goal oriented with a purpose. Play is built on a child’s interests to encourage natural communication and connection.
There are several different types of play your child may demonstrate such as functional play, symbolic play, and imaginative play. Functional play is when a child uses a toy for its intended purpose (e.g., rolling a ball). Symbolic play is when a child may use an object to represent something else (e.g., a small book as a phone). And imaginative play, is when a child acts out a scenario such as feeding a baby doll or pretending to take the doll to school.
When we engage our child in play, they are developing their curiosity, verbal and nonverbal skills, joint attention, fine motor, gross motor skills, turn taking, and more. Play is a critical part of a child’s early learning process. So next time you think you are “just playing,” remember you are helping a child build foundational skills to navigate their future world. Don’t underestimate the power of play!
Written by: Siena Cardamone Viviano M.S. CCC-SLP, TSSLD
Speech-Language Pathologist/Feeding Therapist