Having the Child “Take the Lead”

I am honored to be a guest blogger on Say-N-Play Columbus! Like Signe, I am a Speech-Language Pathologist living in the Columbus area. I work in the clinical and school setting and love following this blog to get ideas for my kids and to pass on to my parents! In addition, I adore that this blog’s main focus is about PLAY! Especially, in the best city ever… Columbus, Ohio! Being a Speech-Language Pathologist, I am constantly reading articles that discuss how play is such an important skill that helps develop language and social skills; which in turn, aids in academic success and performance. Academic success is ultimately what we want for all of our kids, but to me, the most positive benefit from play is the special interactions you gain with your child. 🙂


Over the years, I have learned it can be easy for us adults to want to take the lead during play and when interacting with your child. I know sometimes in my speech therapy sessions, I have a whole lesson planned….and I think “He is going to love this activity and we are going to A, B, and C.” Then, when I introduce the lesson to the child, they are more interested in the man mowing the lawn outside the window compared to the lesson I planned! That is why I have found that one of the best ways to maximize learning and relationship development with your child is to make sure you follow their lead! When the child is in the lead, you can then build off what the child is doing. Be the facilitator, not the “boss” of interactions and play! Here are some tips and examples to get you started. (The response examples in parentheses below may not apply to your child, and depends on your child’s level of language development! TIP: Wherever your child is at with language, try to take it to the next level of complexity with your responses.)

  • “Set the stage” for your child by creating and exposing them to a developmentally appropriate and stimulating environment and toys (This blog has many great ideas for toys and activities!)
  • Observe, wait and watch for what your child is interested in your environment at eye-to-eye level (What do they focus on the most? What causes them to have a reaction?  What do they reach for? What does their body language say? What do you think they are thinking?)
  • Once the child initiates an interaction with you through body language, sounds or words, respond with excitement and enthusiasm and encourage them to respond back. (e.g. your child looks at and touches a ball and then looks at you…respond “Let’s play with the ball!).
  • Imitate and mirror their actions, facial expressions, words/phrases, and sounds (e.g. your child is squishing the ball, so you squish a ball too!)
  • Listen to their comments or sounds and expand on them (e.g. Your child says, “ball” when rolling with a ball..you say “ball rolllll”)
  • Look at their eye gaze and actions and describe what they are doing (e.g. your child is bouncing the ball….say “Bounce!” each time the ball bounces)
  • Give your child choices  (Ask what should we do next with the ball? Roll or kick the ball?” Place the ball on teddy’s head or mommy’s head?)

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I hope this helps grow your interactions, play and bonding with your child! One final tip is to be prepared to adapt since children’s attention span and interests can vary and change. Also…..HAVE FUN interacting and making memories with your child!




Megan Pollock

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