TeachMama Talks: Developing Language through Play

This educational activity is brought to you by Melissa & Doug, written by our Blog Ambassador Amy Mascott. Spend a little focused playtime with your children, and help develop language as you play!

One of my favorite parts of playing with my kids–aside from spending time with three of the coolest kids I know–is finding ideal moments for sneaking in some learning.

Whether they’re playing with numbers, letters or language, when kids are engaged in an activity with their parents they’re captive audience members.

And the learning can be so sneaky. . . that no one even knows they’re learning.

They’re just playing with their parents, and having a good ol’ time.

Here are two quickie tricks for developing language through play. 

1.  Stay Away from Baby Talk! Sure, it’s cute when your child says wabbit for rabbit or wa-wa for water, even ba-ba for banana or apa for apple.  But it is super-important for parents and caregivers to use the correct words instead of repeating “baby” words.

When we repeat baby talk–even going as far as incorporating those “cute words” into our daily conversations–we’re actually not doing our children any favors. In fact, we’re reinforcing their errors and delaying their actual learning of language.

2.  Refrain from Correcting Mistakes. Nothing can shut a person down like an immediate, reflexive correction: “Noooo, it’s NOT apa, it’s APPLE.  Listen, AP-PLE.  Okay? Let me hear you say it–APPLE.”

So at the time when we’re really trying to encourage our kiddos to take risks, try out new sounds and learn our language, we really want to encourage them to talk without fear.  We don’t want to close this important door.

Instead, simply repeat the word correctly. And then move on.  “Oh, you want the apple.  Here you go. Here is the apple.  Now what will you make with the apple? Do you want to cut the apple and make me a snack?  I would love an apple to eat along with my sandwich.”  Eventually, she’ll get it.

And before we know it, we’ll have confident, language-loving kids! Ready to teach? Start playing!

Hang with Amy over at teachmama.com for more cool, super-sneaky ways to throw in some learning in the name of fun, or join her at we teach–a forum for parents and teachers to connect, share ideas and grow–no matter the classroom. Or tweet with her (@teachmama), pin with her or chat with her on Facebook!


  1. preschooluniverse says:

    My 3 year old has always loved pretend cooking and the Melissa and Doug food toys. He has told us before that he is “waiting for his meringue to get to stiff peaks”, and “first you need to macerate those strawberries.” It’s adorable!

    Kids really do soak up everything you say, no need to change your speech so they can understand.

  2. Great tips. My son always says “him” instead of “he” or “her” instead of “she”. A speech therapist that I worked with suggested the same method– not to correct it but to rephrase it for him in the correct way. It’s helping a lot!


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