I am going to make a bold statement. Play is ESSENTIAL to the growth and development of your child. From a young age, play is your child’s occupation. Play promotes creativity and problem-solving, develops resilience and grit, and builds social and cognitive skills including, speech and language development. When you engage in outdoor play with your kids, you foster growth, development, and exposure to a multitude of new experiences.

My inspiration for this week’s blog post came when I was shopping at Target and found great books in their Dollar Spot. They are adaptations of popular children’s stories. Each book comes with a variety of felt characters and items related to the story. The felt books are interactive and provide many opportunities for language stimulation. Looks how cute they are!

Mr. Potato Head is my all time favorite toy to use with preschoolers which is why I have chosen it for my first post in a series called Playing With Purpose (PWP). The PWP series will highlight a specific toy or activity you can use to build language skills during play. Each post will be filled with hands-on ideas, step-by-step directions, and concepts you can address during play time with your child.

There are a number of methods and techniques for working with toddlers who don’t yet communicate effectively with others.  When we think about these methods, we often group them into two larger categories: indirect and direct. Indirect, or input-based, methods rely on adults providing lots of rich language in a child’s environment; with these methods, however, we don’t require children to do anything in the moment. There is considerable evidence to support these input-based methods, especially for late-talkers and toddlers and preschoolers who struggle with the grammatical aspects of language. Despite the effectiveness of input-based methods in some situations, there are times when these indirect methods of language facilitation aren’t all that are needed.  In these cases, we might choose to use a more direct method of helping a child to communicate.  Direct methods involve expecting a child to do something – to use a gesture, or a word, for example – right in the moment when we are teaching them. This is where prelinguistic milieu teaching enters the picture.

Within the wide range of techniques we SLPs carry in our speech-language toolboxes, the use of recasts is one we pull out frequently.  In fact, it’s a tool that many SLPs, parents, and teachers often use intuitively and with ease when interacting with young children.  But how valuable, exactly, is the use of recasting? What research guides the use of this technique in practice? And when do we need to use something more than recasts to help language grow? Recent research provides some clues to help us to answer these questions.