The Importance of Symbolic Play

Bridget Hillsberg
May 10, 2020

Did you know that play helps children learn language?

Play is super important in the development of language because it encompasses skills like interaction, socialization, cognition and problem-solving. At Speech Sisters, we believe play is one of the ways that children learn new skills and it is so rich in language opportunities. Symbolic play is when a child uses one object to represent another object.  For example, your child might pick up the TV remote and use it as a telephone, or maybe they hop in a cardboard box and pretend that it’s their car.

A study was conducted that looked at different types of play and which was most effective for language development. The findings were that during symbolic play, the interaction between parents and their children were found to happen more often and for longer periods of time. Symbolic play also elicited significantly more symbolic gestures from both toddlers & their parents - which is crucial for language development.  This type of play is critical to language development because both the parent and the child must have a mutual understanding of the representational function of objects. The crazy thing is that this usually happens naturally and without the use of language.

To learn simple and effective strategies to help get your little one talking, check out our Talk on Track (newborn-14 months) and Time to Talk: Toddler Course (15-36 months). We’d love to equip you to experience the joy of your little one talking to you!

Quinn, S., & Kidd, E. (2018). Symbolic play promotes non-verbal communicative exchange in infant-caregiver dyads. British Journal of Developmental Psychology. 10.1111/bjdp.12251.

Bridget Hillsberg
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