If you’ve ever seen your child’s speech-language or occupational therapy session, you might have noticed that it looked a lot like “playing”.
In fact, pediatric speech-language pathologists and occupational therapists almost always include some sort of toy, game, or other play-based activity during their sessions with children, often times in combination with more direct-instructional learning styles.
Parents may be confused by this, because after all, the long-held traditional approach to learning is much more lecture-based—the adult speaks, the child listens.
For young children, traditional approaches may not be the single best strategy, due to attention difficulties and increased energy.
It’s very hard for children to “sit still and listen”, which is one of the reasons why therapists “play” in their sessions—since play is engaging and interesting to children, he or she will be more likely to participate, and consequently, learn!
Why else is play a good idea? It teaches children to build positive interactions with others, improves their attention, and creates opportunities to practice socialization.
Play can also teach children about functional and relational concepts (i.e. a brush is used to comb hair), how to follow directions and abide by rules, team and partner-building, body-awareness, and problem-solving.
For example, if your child has an interest in art, a speech or occupational therapist might use this as a learning opportunity—the session may include an art-craft that also includes speech, language, or occupational demands (i.e. naming, learning how to use a paintbrush, etc.).
There’s also evidence that supports that children demonstrate less negative behaviors during interesting and motivating activities.
There are so many ways to create an enriched learning environment for your child by focusing on his or her interests—after all, it’s how children relate to the world and their environment.
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