School-age play: why it’s important for talking development
Play is the main way that children develop, learn and explore the world.
Playing with your child gives you many opportunities to talk. And the more you play and talk together, the more words your child hears. This gives your child the chance to keep learning new words and practising conversation skills. This is good for your child’s communication and social skills at school and helps their brain develop.
When you spend time talking and playing together, it strengthens your relationship with your child. And a strong relationship with you is essential to development, because it gives your child the confidence to keep exploring and learning.
What to expect: school-age language skills
By 6-7 years, your child will probably:
- want to talk to you, friends and other family members as much as possible
- like to tell jokes and riddles
- talk confidently with familiar grown-ups
- describe complicated situations
- express a range of ideas
- read aloud
- have an increased vocabulary
- talk on the phone if they want to.
Your six-year-old will probably be talking and understanding quite easily, but they might sometimes get words or sentences muddled up. Understanding tenses (past, present and future) is still a challenge.
By 7-8 years, your child will have the language skills to explain thoughts and ideas, join in conversations, and tell you in detail what happened during their day.
School-age children can sometimes have so much news to share that they stumble over words and get frustrated. Give your child time to answer and they’ll get the words out eventually. When you listen patiently, it sends the message that what your child has to say is important to you.
If you’re raising multilingual or bilingual children, it’s a good idea to keep speaking your native language to them at home even though they’re learning English at school.
Play ideas to boost school-age language skills
It’s good for your child’s language skills if you take the time to listen and chat together. This reminds your child that conversation involves both listening and talking.
Here are play ideas to encourage talking and improve your child’s vocabulary:
- Read together: encourage your child to choose what to read. You and your child can also take turns reading aloud and listening.
- Sing songs together.
- Play simple word games – for example, think of words that rhyme with ‘frog’.
- Listen to stories and songs or play games in the car – for example, ‘I Spy’ is a fun game that encourages children to think about sounds and letters.
- Tell jokes and riddles.
- Make time to chat about your day, and try asking open-ended questions like ‘What did you enjoy about school today?’
- Talk while you’re enjoying activities with your child, like going for a walk or kicking a footy around. Talking together builds your relationship with your school-age child too.
Screen time for school-age children
Good-quality, age-appropriate screen time can support your child’s learning and language development.
This can happen when your child enjoys screen time as part of a healthy lifestyle. It’s all about balancing screen time with other activities that are good for your child’s development, like physical play, reading and socialising.
If you have any concerns about your child’s speech, it’s a good idea to see a health professional. Concerns might include stuttering or mispronouncing certain letters at when they’re seven or eight years old.