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Play with a Purpose

Updated: Sep 30, 2021

Have you ever wondered why your child’s speech therapy sessions look like the clinician is just playing with your child? Well that’s because they are! Children learn best through play, but not just any kind of play. Your clinician is playing with a purpose! Liu, C. et al. breaks down the power of playing with a purpose.


Firstly, play is joyful and creates dopamine. Studies show an increase in dopamine can improve memory, attention, mental shifting, creativity and motivation. Including your child’s preferred play themes, characters and songs in sessions can encourage this kind of joyful play and dopamine spike.


Next, play can be meaningful and can assist in learning higher level skills. Meaningful play can support analogical thinking, memory, knowledge transfer, metacognition, motivation, reward and confidence.


During play, children are always an active participant. This means they are engaging in a task that engages networks in the brain that improve memory encoding/retrieving, executive control skills and decision making. All of these skills and networks are interlinked with communication processes. Clinicians can model play ideas and your child is given the opportunity to imitate and learn.


Lasly, play is socially interactive. Interactions through play that are positive child-adult encounters can build resiliency, perspective taking, social emotional regulation and protect against learning barriers. Positive play creates positive relationships. Trusting/positive relationships are used to help regulate your child and counterbalance any stress that communication difficulties may cause.


So next time you are confused as to why your child’s session looks just like play, remember your clinician has a purpose here!



References

Liu, C., Solis, S. L., Jensen, H., Hopkins, E.J., Neale, D., Zosh, J.M., Hirsh-Pasek, K. & Whitebread, D. (2017), Neuroscience and learning through play: a review of the evidence (Research Summary). The LEGO Foundation, DK.





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