Speech Pathology Program
Importance of Play

The onset of the following types of play can predict the early onset of communication skills:


Combinational play- Combining material in a play situation e.g. building a block tower


Pretend play- pretending to put a doll to bed or feeding a teddy bear


Symbolic play – A child’s ability to make one thing stand for and represent another e.g. pretending a box is a stove, a rocket or a car


Play skills are correlated to later cognitive skills.  There is a relationship between the early stages of play and the early stages of language development.  Children with delayed receptive and expressive language development often exhibit reduced play skills


Stages of play                                                                       Stages of language

Presymbolic stage


Single pretend act to self

Precursor to increasing single word vocabulary

Single pretend act to another


Combination of pretend acts

Use of two word combinations

Hierarchy of pretend acts

More two word combinations than single words





Emerging communications skills are affected by the verbal input provided by the primary carers,


The QUANTITY of talking is most important- Hart & Risley 1995 found that there was a massive difference in children’s cumulative experience of language – some children were exposed to 4 million sentences while others only 250,000 sentences per year.


The QUALITY and TYPE of talking is important.  That is, modeling age appropriate language structures when appropriate, having fun with stories and games, acknowledgment of communication attempts and being child focused in communication





Leaper, Anderson & Sanders 1998 performed an analysis of gender difference in language use with children.  They showed that when compared to fathers, mothers

  • Talk more
  • Use more supportive speech
  • Use les directive speech


Mothers tend to be more talkative and use more supportive speech with daughters than sons.


Barwick et al 2004 showed that maternal responsiveness & maternal sensitivity is related to the quality of verbal input that infants and toddlers receive.  Maternal responsiveness is particularly important in the prelinguistic stage and in the development of social communication skills.

  • However, other studies show no gender effects upon maternal speech.


Researchers have investigated the impact of maternal depression (Kahn et al 2002, Murray, Kempton, Woolgar & Hooper 1993).  Groups included those mothers with post partum depression, a history of depression and no history of depression.  They found that those with maternal depression showed:


  • Less infant focused speech
  • Less acknowledgement of infant communication attempts
  • No differences in language complexity and syntax.





Cathy Marson

                                                            B.App.Sc. (SP) MSPA CPSP


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