Is Play Really Just Playing?

What are the skills a child develops through play?

child at play

A child playing with blocks is not just playing. As he is nesting blocks, he is learning size relationship. He learns that smaller blocks fit inside larger ones. He learns cause and effect as he builds his blocks higher and higher until they come crashing down. As the blocks are tumbling down, he can describe it using language. It is while playing that children test ideas, ask questions, and come up with answers.

What are the Skills that a child develops through Play?

During child development, the following skills are developed through play:

Language – Enhances ability to describe what is happening, ask for help and wonder why toys work like they do.

Physical – Enhances fine and gross motor through picking up blocks, putting legos together and jumping around on a trampoline.

Emotional – Ability to work out frustrations by getting a heart shape into the corresponding shape or making a social scenario with dolls to work out conflicts with friends. .

Cognitive/Intellectual – Enhances a child’s ability to think, understand and eventually reason things out while taking in new information about a toy or game.

Social – Socially, children work on managing their feelings, learning skills like sharing and taking turns, and empathizing with other people’s feelings and thoughts.

How can you help?

Try not to involve your children in so many activities that there is no time for play. Creativity takes time to develop, and children can have difficulties entertaining themselves if they are not given time to use their imagination.

1. Show that play is valuable by playing with your children. Children realize that play is important if adults pay attention to them while they are playing and even engaging with them in play.

2. Appreciate and talk to your children about their play. We often say, “You are doing a great job working,” but we may never say, “You are doing a great job playing!”

3. Create an environment for play. It is important for adults to provide materials that children can explore and adapt in play, and if possible,  provide a special “play place” or designated area for the pretend play and all the inspiring props. Adults should monitor play, so that when play appears to be “stuck” or unproductive, they can suggest new character roles.

4. Children get ideas for their play from books, movies, field trips, and everyday life.  For instance, if your children are interested in a particular topic, such as animals, take them to the zoo, read them abook about farm animals, or watch a movie about animals – they will be filled with ideas for pretend play. You might see your children reenacting the trip or scenes from the movie with friends. This helps them to better remember the experience, and it reinforces all of their newly learned information.

Examples of appropriate toddler toys: pull-push toys; blocks; an assortment of balls; Play-Doh with simple tools (craft sticks and wooden rollers); picture books; containers, scoops, sifters, and other objects for sand and water play; toys and props for dramatic play like scarves, hats.


Imagine The Possibilities with Pretend Play, Amber Hodgson, M.A. CCC-SLP

The New Language of Toys by Sue Schwartz, Ph. D.

Identifying a Child’s Learning Style

Take a look at your child’s pattern of learning. Are his learning skills comparable to other children in his class? Has your child been working with a tutor without measurable improvement?

Child Success Center - Learning StyleAll children learn differently. Each child has his or her own unique learning and processing style. Some children learn better when they hear information, others when they see it. Still others learn best when they hear and see information simultaneously. In addition, some children face learning challenges that make it difficult to learn the foundational skills necessary to read, write or calculate.

It is the Educational Therapist who helps identify how your child learns best and determine the stumbling blocks that may be preventing your child from reaching his/her potential. The Educational Therapist works in partnership with parents and other professionals working with your child, to ensure that your child gets the right start and continues to grow as a life-long, independent learner.

The educational therapeutic process includes individual interventions designed to remediate areas of challenge in regard to learning, as well as help the child begin to learn about his or her unique learning style. As the child becomes aware of his strengths, he can begin to utilize them in strengthening areas of challenge.

This is an ongoing process which can last anywhere from 3 months to several years. Areas of intervention can include, but are not limited to reading, writing, mathematics, communication and language skills, processing skills, and executive functioning skills. Following the assessment or records review, a program will be recommended if appropriate. For many students the program will be designed in 2 phases.

Learn more about the Educational Therapeutic Process.

Your child may benefit from Educational Therapeutic Services if you recognize any of these Common Signs and Indicators.

Is Your Child "ready" for Kindergarten?

You have a child in kindergarten and it’s time for the first round of parent teacher conferences.

kindergarten readiness

Do you feel excited to hear about how your child is doing at school or are you a bit nervous? Are you ready to guide your child’s learning experiences this year along with their teachers? 

This year I am both a parent of a kindergartner and the Director of a development and learning center. For myself and all the other parents, September was a long month filled with first days of school, back to school nights, challenges with what to pack for lunch so your child will eat, early mornings and building of new friendships. It is also the time that many schools schedule parent teacher meetings to begin the process of sharing and gathering information about your child.

I recently had my conference and I will tell you that if we had sent our son to kindergarten last year it would have been a very different conversation. My son is a May birthday and a year ago, even with a play based, multi-sensory approach to learning that he had been exposed to at Child Success Center in the “Get set for Kindergarten” program and through his school, he was just entering the very beginning stages of interest, desire and ability to understand the 2 dimensional written world of letters, words and print.  At 5.4 years of age last September he was a sweet, sensitive child whose brain was not ready for kindergarten in some ways and very ready in others. He, at that time, was struggling to write his name and draw. His peers were already doing that and showing interest in letters. My son was building the San Pedro harbor out of blocks and the Eifel Tower out of Magna Tiles. Some would say that is fine. While there is nothing wrong with that he wasn’t gravitating towards play based activities that would help him build foundational learning processes for reading and writing. Such activities encompass a large part of a child’s school day and include rhyming, identifying differences in the sounds that letters make, matching a sound and symbol, identifying the name of letters and beginning to write them, drawing and controlling the pencil.  At that time, my son wasn’t quite ready.

Over the past year we chose to enroll him in a developmental Kindergarten program at Circle of Children and he participated in a weekly kindergarten readiness class followed by a Kindergarten readiness camp over the summer at Child Success Center. He loved all of his experiences as they were presented in a play based approach and provided him with just the right challenge to learning.

So back to the teacher conference… I was able to walk away feeling happy and calm that my son is now ready to learn, excited to learn, has the foundation to learn and the capacity to learn. Most of all, he sees learning as fun. He sees himself as a reader and loves to handwrite. As an Occupational therapist and his mother I am very proud of his beautiful dynamic pencil grasp!!

Moving from a 3D world of playing with Magna tiles to the 2D world of reading and writing is not easy for many children.

We know that the Center for Disease Control states that 16.7% of children have a diagnosed learning and/or developmental challenge and we also know that many children struggle with undiagnosed challenges. Many behaviors such as being impulsive, aggressive, controlling, avoidant, shy, silly, disinterested, immature or having a short attention span, are really a child struggling with the processing capacity to do the activity that is being asked of them. They may be having a hard time taking in the information from their environment, making sense of it quickly and efficiently and producing the desired or required successful response. Many children excel in their natural ability to remember what they see or hear and many struggle with attention, memory, visual and or auditory processing and sensory motor processing.  It is time to look at behavior through a different lens and promote early detection and support for our children.

All human beings have a brain that processes some information easily and other information not so easily. Is your child a visual leaner or an auditory learner? Does he seem to learn better if he is moving? The human brain processes uniquely and we need to strive to understand our children’s natural capacities to learn. Some children will require extra support along the way. This is where individualized and specific help from trained learning specialists such as occupational therapists, speech and language therapists and educational therapists can prove to be beneficial.  We as parents need to read the signs and be open to exposing our children to the teaching methodologies that will support their inherent desire to learn, setting them up for a positive relationship with learning.

Is your child ready for Kindergarten? Is he/she exhibiting behaviors that are troubling and disruptive? Early intervention begins with a proper assessment. For more information on the assessment, therapeutic and Kindergarten Readiness programs offered by Child Success Center, please click here.

Some things to look for in the “Kindergarten-ready” child:

  • Follows words left to right and top to bottom
  • Understands that words are separated by spaces in print
  • Recognizes and can name all upper and lower case letters of alphabet
  • Demonstrates basic knowledge of letter sound correspondence by producing primary sound made by most consonants
  • Holds a pencil with an adult grasp – 3 fingers with control of the pencil from the fingers


Back-to-School – Working with Teachers to Identify Speech and Language Problems

Kids are Going Back to School – Working with your child’s teacher to identify speech and language problems early on is critical to ensuring his/her success at school.


Back to school- working with your child's teacher to identify speech and language issuesAs children return to the school classroom and play yard this year much will be expected of them in the areas of oral communication and listening skills. While the summer time offered great opportunity for children to build the sensory motor skills needed for playing and learning, they also had a break from the often complicated auditory and language world that school presents them.

If you have had concerns about the rate of your child’s speech acquisitions, their attention, socialization, ability to follow direction, answer questions, verbally problem solve, express themselves and emotionally handle communicating with their environment and those in it, we suggest you talk to your teachers at the beginning of the school year to make them aware of your concerns and to discuss ways  to help your child be successful. As parents we know more about our children’s strengths and challenges than anyone else. Give your teacher a head start by meeting with them either before school starts or within the first 4 weeks. Often when children struggle with sensory motor and or speech and language processing their behaviors can be misinterpreted as personality traits;  Controlling, sensitive, shy, aggressive, avoidant, rigid. Truth be told, these behaviors, if not properly identified, can hamper a child’s academic success as early as pre-school.  We are setting students up for success if we identify and support as early as possible.

Knowing who to turn to for information is key. Seek guidance from your school, pediatrician, friends and online. You will find answers. Sometimes it is very clear what your child’s speech and language needs are… “my child cannot say the “s “sound.” Other times it is not so clear… “My 3 year old is hitting at school, not using words to communicate easily and is always on the go.” The combination of Sensory Integration trained Occupational Therapists and Speech and Language Therapists working together is often critical when searching for the underlying root of the challenges your child is presenting with. A collaborative therapy center offers you, the parent, with guidance and a whole child approach as your child grows.

Not all communication challenges are rooted in a speech and language disorder. But it is imperative that this be ruled in or out through a thorough assessment process. If you child is under the age of 5 it should be a play based assessment and your child should be made to feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible in a new environment. Make sure that the environment has play space and is not a small office. If your child is older make sure the therapist is skilled in identifying language based learning challenges and works closely with an educational therapist as these services often work side by side.

For more information on speech and language development and age related indicators that your child may need help please refer to this chart .

Speech and Language issues by the numbers:

Speech or language problems can lead to reading and writing difficulties which in turn lead to serious educational consequences.

  • Some 17-20% of children in the United States have difficulties learning to read.
  • More than 70% of teachers believe that students who receive speech and language services demonstrate improved pre-reading, reading, or reading comprehension skills.
  • Most poor readers have an early history of spoken language deficits.
  • A recent study reported that 2nd graders who read poorly had phonemic awareness or spoken language problems in kindergarten.
  • About 41% of fourth grade boys and 35% of fourth grade girls read below grade level.
  • Overall, communication disorders affect approximately 42 million Americans. Of these, 28 million have a hearing loss and 14 million have a speech or language disorder.

***Statistics provided by ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association http://www.asha.org/)



Child Success Center
2023 S. Westgate Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Call 310-899-9597 to access our “warm” line.
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