games to promote social language

Games That Encourage The Social Use Of Language

As the English poet John Donne once wrote, “No man is an island,” and there is perhaps no place that this is truer than in the midst of an uninhibited child. When it comes to infants, toddlers, and children, social skills may be overlooked in greater anticipation of word production, following directions, and academic success. However, engaging with peers provides children a myriad of opportunities to build receptive, expressive, and pragmatic (social) language.

The use of social language, or pragmatic language, includes the following 3 domains:

  • Using language for different purposesgames to promote social language
  • Modifying language
  • Following rules for conversation

Some purposes of language include telling, requesting, and greeting (I have a ball/I want a ball/hello). Modifying language includes being able to change the message depending on who the communication partner is and where the conversation is taking place. For example, children greet their grandparents differently than they greet their friends. Rules of conversation include maintaining eye contact, taking turns in conversation, repairing communication breakdowns, using gestures and facial expressions, and maintaining a topic.

Here are some games that encourage social language and interaction with peers:

Games for younger children:

  • Pat-a-cake
  • Singing songs that include gestures (Wheels on the Bus, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Row Row Row your Boat, etc.)
  • Peek-a-boo
  • Duck Duck Goose

Games for school-aged children:

  • Go Fish
  • Zingo
  • Candyland
  • Chutes and Ladders
  • Tag

Encourage turn taking, requesting, asking questions, repairing communication break downs, and eye contact during play of these games.

Time spent with peers gives children the opportunity to utilize language in a social way. Other children can be great models of language and social skills. Your child will receive real-world practice with skills such as sharing, being flexible, compromising, taking turns, recognizing others’ opinions and feelings, and expressing their own thoughts and ideas.

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NSPT offers speech and language services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Social Language Use (Pragmatics). Retrieved from