“Why are you just playing when I want my child to talk?”

By PLAY Project Consultant, Brenna

…. But I want my child to talk!!!

This is what I hear from families very very very often. As a parent, I understand how helpful this is! If our kiddos could just TELL us what they need, life would be SO MUCH easier, right!?

While I completely understand the desire for this, I think it is super helpful that families understand all the little steps that need to happen first for kiddos to get those words out! 

So, here it is in a nutshell straight from PLAY project themselves! 

Think of language happening in terms of a pyramid. Kind of like the food pyramid but WAY better! 

FIRST: Check out the very bottom, the base of the pyramid! We HAVE to have Shared Attention. Your child looking at an object WITH you is also key here. If we aren’t both attending to the same thing, we can’t move on to the next step…

SECOND: Engagement. This is the ability for your child to show that they can participate! Eye contact, and then maybe even a smile! 

THIRD: Back and Forth Two-Way Communication. This can be so simple and basic: we have eye contact, we maybe have a smile, and then when we as the communication partner smile back or give eye contact back and they stay there with us! 

NOW WE ARE READY FOR COMMUNICATION! But still, it’s important to notice that before words come, we have some ladder rungs to climb!!!

Gestural communication comes first. Reaching to be picked up, pointing at the ball for you to get it and throw it back, hitting hands on their legs to show you they’re excited! 

……THEN comes the understanding of communication – the receptive piece! Your little one knowing when you point at the ball that this means to pick the ball up and play with you with it! ETC! 


THIS is the point a kiddo is ready to say single words. 

If we do not have them conquering each of these steps leading up to the purple category, expressive single words, we need to take a second as their “teachers” and start at the bottom to help them work their way up before we can expect them to be successful with words! 

We encourage you as a parent to ask yourself if your little one is not yet talking, where do you feel they are “stuck”? What do you notice that do a lot of, but are missing from this pyramid?

Then, spend time building the ladder rung directly BELOW that to help them strengthen their communication skills!! 
As always, if you need help supporting your child to move through these stages, Contact Us through our website and continue your journey growing and learning with your child!


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