Pretending is so important to a child's developing language skills. There's good reason for this.
Language is a set of symbols
When your toddler offers you a cup of pretend tea from a miniature cup, and you pretend to drink it, nobody is fooled. He knows as well as you do that there is no real tea in the cup. What's more, he knows you know.
The cup represents or symbolizes a real cup of tea.
The word cup is a symbol that stands for a real cup, just as the toy cup does. Toys are symbols, so are pictures and so and words.
Although language is something that most of us learn easily, in fact it's a very sophisticated system of symbols. A word stands for something, just as a doll stands for a person and a picture of a toy car stands for a real car.
When you think of it like that, it's amazing that any of us learn to talk at all: never mind reading or writing.
We can help
Parents and grandparents can really help a baby learn about symbols.
The learning starts as he concentrates on one toy, staring at it, feeling it, sucking it. He doesn't need a cot full of stuff at this stage. He can only think about one thing at a time.
When he loses interest, offer him something else. This makes sure he isn't bombarded with too many things at once.
Then he starts to play with two things at a time, putting bricks in boxes and banging his rattle on his cot. This is the next step on the journey to language.
Soon you'll start to see real 'pretending' as he uses a toy teacup to pretend to drink. At first he pretends to drink himself or offers a drink to you, but then he'll offer a drink to teddy.
Now you can see that teddy is like a real person to him. He might kiss him, wash him, and out him to bed.
Here's where grownups really come into their own. This kind of play is for anyone. Even uncles who claim 'I don't know how to talk to children' enjoy tea parties, dressing doll games and pretending to bath teddy and put him to bed.
If you'd like to read more about language and communication skills, check out How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter, our Amazon Kindle eBook (you can also read it on iPhone, iPad, PC, Mac... BUY NOW for only £5.66.
I write this Communication Blog
Frances Evesham: on the run around Europe for years, with only a husband, three children and a succession of opinionated cats to keep me out of trouble. Somerset stopped me in my tracks. Now I walk in the country and breathe sea air. I will get around to cleaning the house soon.
I've been a speech therapist, a professional communication fiend and a road sweeper. I sometimes work in the criminal courts to uphold fair questioning of people with special needs.
I smell the roses, lavender and rosemary as I cook with a glass of wine in one hand and a bunch of chillies in the other. Writing historical romances and books on communication leaves enough time to enjoy bad jokes and puns and wish I’d kept on with the piano lessons.