Help Your Child Talk by Playing and Pretending

Today, we've reached the 20th extract from How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter: your chance to learn more about the way your child learns to talk.

If you're a new reader, CLICK HERE to read How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter from the very beginning.This link takes you to the first post, so you can read the extracts in sequence. I try to post every Friday, by noon GMT. 

This week's extract shows how your baby begins to develop his understanding of 'pretending'.  This is important, as we saw last week, because it leads him to discover how to use symbols. Language, both spoken and written, is a complex system of symbols.

Play begins as your baby looks closely at his toys during his first year. He puts things in his mouth, turns them over, pokes them and shakes them. Rattles, soft toys, a mother's earrings: they all come in for the 'see it, feel it, suck it' treatment as he finds out what these strange things are, and what they can do. 

He needs time to understand how each object looks, sounds, tastes, smells and feels before he moves on to the next stage. Throughout his first year, your baby’s play revolves around his five senses and real objects. Towards the end of the year, he uses real objects for their intended purpose. He drinks from his cup and maybe uses a hairbrush on his own hair. 

 Play: experiment
Once he becomes familiar with objects, he notices that some have a relationship to others. He puts a spoon in and out of a cup and makes stirring movements. He tries to put other objects in the cup, and finds that some things fit while others, such as bricks, may not fit so well in a cup, but sit nicely on top of each other. He explores constantly, finding out more about the properties of everything around him.

Soon he starts “pretending”, using toys as though they are the real thing. He pretends to drink from a toy cup, or brushes his own hair with a doll’s size brush. At first, he does these pretend actions to himself, but then he begins to offer a “drink” to teddy or brushes dolly's hair. 

Teddy is like a real person to him now. He might kiss him and wash him. He reproduces aspects of his own life through his play with a teddy or a doll. Let him take teddy everywhere, exploring the world of make believe and expanding his understanding of language. 

Come back next week to find out how you can enjoy this exciting stage with your toddler, and help him learn to talk at the same time. 

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I write this Communication Blog

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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.