To get young children talking, we often motivate them by showing that “using your words” can get you what you want. A simple way to achieve this is through “People Play”. People Play describes “songs, games and activities in which the fun happens when the child interacts with another person” (The Hanen Program, More Than Words). So grab a blanket or a couch cushion and enjoy some of these great ways to play and interact that will also motivate your child to request more fun! The one-word language suggestions can always be lengthened into phrases or sentences depending on your child’s expressive language level.
Two adults hold a blanket and the child lays in it while the adults swing gently back and forth. Possible language to add includes: wee, stop, go, more, swing, fun. This is especially successful if your child loves motion and swings.
Squish with cushions
The child lays on couch/floor and adult pushes on them with a cushion/big pillow. Possible language to add includes: push, squish, more, oo, ah. This People Play is perfect if your child loves deep pressure. They may seek this pressure out by sitting under tables or behind couch cushions.
The adult (or other children) and child hold hands and walk in a circle while singing and then falling down! You can always make up new words to the song such as “Ring around the Rosy, aren’t we warm and cozy, walking, walking, we all fall down!” Possible language to add (besides the singing) includes: stop, go, walk, fall, more, again. This oldie but goodie is wonderful if your child loves singing, spinning, or that deep pressure input he/she gets when falling down!
Up and Swing
The adult lifts the child and swings them around. Possible language to add includes: up, wee, swing, more, down. Children are often begging to be lifted up by an adult, why not make it a language enriching activity?
Besides increasing your child’s expressive language, these People Play games also provide you with wonderful opportunities for eye contact, shared experiences and physical closeness with your child. Now go play!