At Express Yourself Therapy all of our therapists are DIR trained and take a play-based approach. Research has proven that children learn the best through play.

*Play is so powerful it can be used as an intervention to close achievement gaps for children between the ages of 3 to 6 (Parker & Thomsen, 2019)*

Play is Language Rich:

  • Through play children begin to apply language and learn higher level language and cognitive skills such as perspective taking, problem solving, imagining, story telling, predicting, inferring and other skills with other humans
  • Children demonstrate their most advanced language skills during play, and that these language skills are strongly related to emergent literacy
  • Developmentally appropriate play is a singular opportunity to promote the social-emotional, cognitive, language, and self-regulation skills that build executive function and a prosocial brain that is ready for academic learning

Promotes Reading Comprehension

  • Building a strong imagination through pretending helps children imagine the setting, characters, and events in the literature they encounter
  • In pretend play, children learn to classify, compare, and reason, which are all semantic organizational skills

  • Reading comprehension requires the ability to recognize the emotions of characters and make inferences about characters’ thoughts, emotions, intentions, and actions which is tied to Theory of Mind

Increases Perspective Taking/Theory of Mind

  • Theory of Mind involves understanding another’s intentions, beliefs, actions
  • The foundation for Theory of Mind is built through pretending and engaging with other humans.
  • Pretend play requires the ability to think about a “different self” as well as an awareness of the thoughts and emotions of others

Improves Executive Function Skills:

What is executive function skills? Executive Function has three components:

  1. Cognitive Flexibility (Problem Solving and Perspective Taking): thinking about something in multiple ways
  2. Working Memory (multi-tasking): keeping information in mind and manipulating it in some way.
  3. Inhibitory Control: deliberately suppressing attention (and subsequent response) to something such as ignoring a distraction, stopping an impulsive utterance or action, or overcoming a highly learned response
  • Higher-order thinking skills and executive functions essential for school success are best taught through unstructured and social play
  • Through play children gain background knowledge and experience and grow in their development of problem solving, memory & creativity

*Children are NOT born with these skills, they are born with the potential to develop them*

Play and Decontextualization

Decontextualization is talking, thinking, reading about, and imagining things outside of the here and now

  • Preschool children’s use of decontextualized language is predictive of their kindergarten readiness

Research Behind Play:

  • Children who play in decontextualized ways in preschool had more elaborate and descriptive vocabulary and more complex syntax in elementary school (Nicolpoulou, 2007; Rand, 2021; Stagnetti & Lewis, 2015)
  • At birth, a child’s brain already has nearly all the neurons it will ever have but it triples in size over the course of the first three years in response to what we learn from our interaction with other people, our environment, and physical interaction with items and objects (Gilmore et al., 2007; Nowakowski, R., 2006; Rakic, P., 2006)
  • Play and learning are inextricably intertwined; when children play, they are learning. Children who engage in play and playful learning do better in academic subjects than do their peers who play less (Hirsh-Pasek, Michnick, & Golinkoff, 2008).
  • Play supports skills such as problem solving, perspective taking, creative thinking, planning, organizing, using language, and overall academic success (Berk 2002)