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Children like to play and have fun. Playing and communicating with your child will help them develop, and help you to get to know your child better. Play can be a good opportunity to introduce new signs or concepts. It also helps your child to get to know more about themselves and the world around them. Activities that use toys, books and other materials may also help your child to express themselves, improve their vocabulary and gain confidence. However, the main point of playtime is to have fun.

This section contains some ideas for simple games and activities which you can do with your child. Your local library will have books with other activities and games for young children. You can use or adapt these for your child. You can also ask other parents, nursery staff, teachers or your child’s teacher of deaf children for other ideas.

Activity 1 – Spot the difference

Take some card or paper and draw an outline of an object or animal. You can use a picture from a magazine as an outline or template. Then draw the object four or five times on the same piece of paper. When you draw the pictures, try and draw them the same but change the details on one of them. For example, if you draw a dog, have one with a long tail and the rest with short tails.

Ask your child to find the differences. You can use the game to introduce or reinforce words or signs by asking questions such as:

  • are the ears the same?
  • are they the same colour? 
  • are they the same size?

“We used this activity with our son to help him learn new vocabulary but also to encourage him to look carefully at pictures and objects. He really liked it.”

Activity 2 – Making jigsaws

It’s easy to make your own simple jigsaws. Collect birthday cards, comics or magazines and choose pictures that are clear, simple and mean something to the child, such as pictures of everyday objects or situations. Stick the picture onto some card and cut it into pieces. You can also encourage children to make their own jigsaws. Jigsaws can help children with their visual skills and their fine motor skills (skills in making slight movement) as they match and fit the pieces together.

“Our daughter used to love home-made jigsaws. When she was young, I used to make them for her, then as she got older she used to make them for me.”

Activity 3 – Dressing up

A box with clothes in is all that’s needed for this game. Ask relatives or friends for unwanted items. Car boot or garage sales are also great places for buying unusual clothes and hats. Dressing up and play-acting can help children learn about different roles and the world around them.

“At the playgroup where I work we find the children love to dress up. It helps with their imagination and we can use it to introduce real-life situations such as going on holiday, visiting relatives or going to the doctor.”

Activity 4 – Missing things

Gather together several different household objects and place them on a tray. Ask your child to look at the objects. Then cover the tray with a cloth and remove one of the objects. Ask your child which one is missing. You can make this harder by adding more objects to the tray. It’s also a good game for taking in turns as your child can take away items and you can guess what’s missing.

“The missing things game was one of my favourite games that I used to play with my son. We had great fun taking it in turns to take away objects from a tray.”

Activity 5 – Story strips

Think of a story. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It could even be an event or activity in your child’s life, such as going swimming or visiting relatives. Divide the story into four or five parts. Then draw the different parts of the story onto a piece of card and divide the different sections with lines.

Use the story strip to tell the story, pointing at the different sections. You can also ask your child to retell the story or you can ask them questions about what’s happening in the different pictures. To make the activity more difficult you could cut the card into the different parts of the story, mix them up and ask your child to put them into the correct order.

“We found this story strip really helped our children (I have two deaf children) develop their language as well as an awareness of order.”

Activity 6 – Labels

This is a great way to help children associate words with objects. Place cards on different household objects. You can also introduce descriptive words such as ‘small chair’, ‘large chair’, ‘blue lamp’ and so on.

“We had labels on nearly everything so that our son could associate the words with the objects and items. Sometimes we would give him the labels and ask him to put them on the right object such as a table or chair.”

Activity 7 – Shopping list

When you go shopping, make a small list of items for your child to get at the shops. Stick a picture next to the word to help them make the connection between the object and its name. You can make the activity more complicated in different ways such as writing the items and asking your child to draw pictures to go with it, or by giving them the picture and asking them to write the word.

“My daughter used to hate going shopping, she would misbehave a lot. I decided to get her more involved. So I made a shopping list for her with words and pictures. She used to love taking things off the shelf, putting them in her basket and ticking it off her list.”

Activity 8 – Playing shops

When you have decided on the type of shop you want to create, collect together as many different relevant items as possible. Your child can help you label each item with its name and a price. Use a tub or a box as a cash register. Try and use real coins, as it is good for children to get used to handling real money. You can also use other items such as buttons. Have a bag and purse that you or your child can use when you are playing.

“Playing shops is great fun and is a great way to help your child understand the world around them. We used to play at being all kinds of shops such as the supermarket, a toy shop, a clothes shop and the bank.”

Activity 9 – Visual diary

For your weekly chart you can have different pictures or photographs of the activities you are going to do. For young children, you can stick the picture on the chart yourself. For older children, you can encourage them to stick the picture on the chart and describe the activity, or get the things they need ready (such as a towel and swimming costume).

“We had a chart on the wall with the days of the week on it. Under each day of the week we would stick a picture of the activity we were going to do.”

Activity 10 – Matching numbers

Cut out some circles and write a number from 1 to 10 in each one. Collect together lots of different objects and ask your child to put the right number of items in each circle.

“My son found it difficult to learn his numbers so we invented a game to help him. It involved placing the right number of toys on a number card. Then we developed the game to introduce adding and subtracting. Not only did it help him to learn but we had a good time together. I really didn’t want to make it seem like learning but more like playing a game.”

Activity 11 – Measuring

This is a simple activity. All you really need is a ruler or a tape measure. You could also ask your child to draw a picture to show what the smallest and largest things you measured were.

“We used to measure everything – teddies, toys, furniture, garden plants. It was a way of introducing size, shape and concepts such as bigger, smaller.”

Activity 12 – Cooking

Cooking is a great way for children to learn and have fun. It involves a lot of learning activities such as planning, estimating, measuring and timing as well as handling the ingredients and cooking utensils.

“There are so many things you can do during your everyday life that can help and support your child. We used to love baking cakes together, especially measuring out the ingredients, oh and of course eating the final product.”

Activity 13 – Gardening

Like cooking, gardening is good for developing many different skills and for learning about nature. As well as planting vegetables, seeds and plants, there are many other activities you can do. For example, if you go for a walk, you and your child can collect different types of leaves. When you get home, stick the leaves into a scrapbook or onto paper. Have some books about trees ready so your child can look up which trees the different leaves came from and write the name next to the leaf.

“When the children were young we didn’t really have much outside space, only a patio. However, each of the children had their own plant pots with different plants and vegetables. They used to get excited each time there was a new tomato on the plant or a new flower came out.”

Information provided by the National Deaf Children’s Society. Reproduced with permission.
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