Occupational Therapy, Speech

Do you sometimes find yourself looking for ways to build up your child’s language skills? One of the best ways to work on those skills is through PLAY! Research has shown that play and language are deeply connected. Using play-based therapy to improve language skills is successful because it engages your child in something they enjoy. We all learn more when we are interested! Who doesn’t love playing games with their child? Today we are going to discuss the different types of play and how to use them in everyday life.

Symbolic Play

Symbolic play is when a child uses an object in place of another object. This is something you should look for at around 18 months of age. The following are some examples of symbolic play.

  • Using a banana as a cell phone

  • Using a plate as a steering wheel

  • Using a fork as a hair brush

Pretend Play

Pretend play is when a child “pretends” that an object is something that it’s not or pretending they are someone they are not. You should start noticing your child doing these types of things around 18 to 24 months.

  • Playing dress up

  • Having tea parties

  • Playing in the dirt with monster trucks

  • Making a pirate ship out of a cardboard box


Functional Play

This is where a child plays with a toy how it was intended to be played with. You should notice this when your child is approximately 12 to 18 months.

  • Feeding a baby her bottle

  • Shooting a basketball into a hoop

  • Rolling a ball back and forth

  • Stacking blocks

There are so many fun ways for you to work on language with your child that you can both enjoy. Don’t be scared to get creative and think out of the box. Have fun!

Jordan Nutt May, BSE SLP Assistant


Try our Free Online Screening Tool

If you are not in therapy and you are wondering if your child may be falling behind in the areas of speech and/or language, please try our online screening tool. You will be given a survey of age-appropriate milestones for speech, language, gross motor skills, fine motor skills and sensory processing for children ages 1-6.


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