Language Development on the Playground

children running and playground outside in nature

Language development is one of the most important skills children learn through play. Children are learning how to interact with the world. They’re honing their ability to understand others and to express their thoughts, feelings, and needs. The preschool playground presents a unique opportunity to encourage language development and generalize skills. Interaction with adults and other children in the outdoor classroom all create new learning possibilities. 

Creating opportunity for language development and communication does not need to require a lot of planning or equipment. Children learn through modeling, repetition, and applying their skills in a new environment. Often as parents and teachers, we are already creating opportunity for language development without realizing it. Through purposeful choices and reflection, we have the ability to expand those teaching moments. 

5 Activities for encouraging language development on the playground:


1. Talk about where you are going: 

While planning your day, discuss where you are going, when you will leave, who you will see, and what you will be doing with your time. Model the use of descriptive language. What will your child experience? Introduce new vocabulary during your conversations.


Use future tense: “Today at 2:00 pm we will walk to the preschool playground. We are going to play with your friend Myles! What would you like to do at the playground today? My favorite thing to do is climb the rope wall.”

“After snack, our class will go outside to play. We will take turns playing with the trucks in the sandbox. You can also practice scooping the sand into buckets.” 

Simple! You already have many of these conversations. Use this time to introduce new or unfamiliar words.



2. Narrate your play: 

A lot of adults do this without knowing the benefits. While playing, narrate what the children are doing, what you are doing, and what you see in the environment around you. This is a great way to model new vocabulary words, and practice common words through repetition. 

Use descriptive and colorful language. This can be a child’s first introduction to directional words, colors, shapes, and words relating to movement. 


“You are sliding down the yellow slide.”

“We are jumping in the crunchy leaves” 

“I see a red cardinal perched above the rope wall”  

“You are swinging high up in the air!”

“We are digging in the sand for buried treasure.” 

“I see you pouring rocks into the dump truck”

“I hear you playing music on the xylophone”


3. Make new friends: 

Playing on the playground gives children a great opportunity to meet new communication partners! Children can introduce themselves to other children and engage in pretend play, all of which allows them to guide conversations with peers. 

Open-ended play in the outdoor classroom helps them to stretch their imaginations and to share ideas with friends. 

Interacting with children who have more developed language gives your child a peer model to learn from. Interacting with younger children may create opportunity for your child to “be the teacher”.


4. Play I Spy

Play I Spy! Identify common vocabulary words using colors, animals, bugs, shapes, and size. 

“I spy something with a bushy tail and brown fur”

“I spy something tall and yellow” 


“I spy something round that can play music” 

Taking turns allows you to model language; it also gives the child an opportunity to practice new vocabulary words. 


5. Create opportunity to make requests: 

Would your child like to use toys at the water table? Give them the opportunity to make a request! Set the desired toys or accessories just out of reach.

Are you planning to eat a snack at the playground? Set out food choices and let the child request what they would like to eat.

Children can make requests using verbal language, gestures, or both. 


Encouraging language development doesn’t need to be complicated! Be purposeful with your time and your word choices and you will see your child’s vocabulary grow! Take advantage of the preschool playground as a fun learning environment.


Continue to incorporate language in the outdoor classroom with The Adventurous Child Chalk Board. Use the Chalk Board to spell commonly used words on the preschool playground. Allow children to draw what they see in the outdoor classroom and have them describe it to you. Click the link below to learn more about The Adventurous Child Chalk Board.


Chalkboard, Large


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We strive to create fun and informative content that will help young children learn and grow. However, it's important to keep in mind that all activities should be performed under the supervision of an adult. The Adventurous Child website is intended to serve as a reference and guidance for educational activities, and it is ultimately the responsibility of the parent, guardian, and/or educator to determine the appropriateness of the activity for their child’s age and maturity level. Thank you for your understanding and support!