Which Apps Promote Language Development?

Over the past few years, as technology has greatly improved, I have noticed more and more children coming to my clinic playing on their parent’s smart phones, or having a smart phone or a tablet of their own. I have no problem with phones or tablets. As a bit of a tech geek, I carried two separate phones for close to two years. My own children each have a child’s tablet that they play on.

This year I have begun holding workshops on speech and language development, and one common question that is asked is:

“What apps or computer programs do you recommend for language development?”

That question is always phrased the same way, but it tends to have different meanings behind it. A parent might be asking what I use in therapy when working with a child, or do I think using apps or computers is helpful. Sometimes the underlying question has to do with whether I think the use of phones and electronics is bad for a child’s development.

So let me answer the underlying questions first, and then I’ll address the question in its purest form! I do not use anything particular in my treatment. I see a broad range of children that differ in age and diagnoses. If I use any electronics, it is often when working with a child with severe special needs and it is only used to get their attention. For older children I will use the computer to generate activities, but it is rare that I have a child sitting in front of the computer during treatment.

Is it bad to have them looking at a screen? I don’t think so. But is it good? I don’t think so either. I think tablets, phone apps and games are great for filling some empty time when you need to give your child something to focus on when you need them quiet. The therapist in me would say to never do this. The father in me says do what you need to do to keep them quiet. However, we all know that to much of anything is never good.

So back to the original question- what can you buy that will promote language development? I don’t believe that any computer app can promote language development. It can give you information, but that in itself will not promote language development. The best way for an app or computer game to promote language development in your child is through activities and games that require interaction. Such games or activities will have to present something, a question maybe, and not progress until the child makes a move, or a selection of some sort. This tends to be the most interaction that a phone game is capable of.

If you are looking for something to promote language development, simply put the phones away, get down on the floor with your child and play whatever they want to play. This provides the best reinforcement for a child’s language development. There is nothing better than face to face conversation. It is so much more fun for both you and your child! So let the house be dirty for a bit and have some fun while you, yourself, provide the best activity for you kids, no purchase required!

Jason Spear Miller
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