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Playtime tips and ideas

Photo: Try to turn everyday activities into a chance to learn through play

It can be challenging to find time for playtime and some parents feel daunted by this. Even making time to sit down with your child for a few minutes a day, away from distractions, is a good start. Just try to turn every activity, from bathtime to shopping, into a chance to learn through play.

Getting the most out of playtime

Here are our tips for getting the most out of playtime.

  • Keep games and activities short enough to hold your child’s attention – concentrating can be tiring.
  • Ensure a good listening environment – a quiet space, with soft furnishings to help acoustics, and well-lit so your child can clearly see your face.
  • Always gain their attention first before expecting them to interact with you.
  • Ensure activities challenge them but aren’t too advanced for their level of development.
  • Choose games and activities that allow maintained eye contact.
  • Praise throughout and end on a positive note.

Toys and games

Deaf children don’t need special toys – everyday toys and games that hearing children play with are just as good.

  • Look for toys appropriate for your child’s age and level of development.
  • Toys that make noises may help your child learn about different sounds and develop their listening skills – including awareness, attention, discriminating between sounds, and recognising sounds and their sources.
  • Building blocks, rhythmic toys/instruments, stacking toys and soft sensory toys are all essentials.
  • You might like to try using a resonance board with your child as they help to amplify sound and your child might be able to 'feel' sound through vibrations on the board. Watch Sense's video to find out more.

The three Rs – rhyme, rhythm and repetition

  • Rhyme – singing poems and nursery rhymes is a fun way for children to practise controlling their voices, in terms of both volume and frequency (otherwise known as ‘pitch’), and in recognising the melody of intonation in spoken language.
  • Rhythm – any kind of rhythmic play will provide the foundation of the rhythms that children need to develop language skills e.g. drums, pat-a-cake and clapping.
  • Repetition – include favourite songs and rhymes in play sessions to help reinforce the rhyme and rhythm of speech and improve auditory memory (the ability to take in information that is presented out loud, process it, retain it and then recall it).
Ideas for games to play

Listening games

It’s important to help your child focus on specific sounds and make sense of them, and to develop their concentration. 

  • Play musical statues, games with instructions like ‘Simon Says’ and waiting games in response to a voice: ‘Ready, steady… GO!’ with visual cues.
  • Play picture card games or board games with repetitive rules and a visual focus so your child can begin to overhear without having to look up. 

Signing games

  • Sing songs like Row your boat and sign key words, for example ‘crocodile’ or ‘scream’, encouraging your child to sign with you.
  • Play a matching game using photos/magazine cut outs of objects or facial expressions, then sign a word and ask your child to choose a matching photo
  • Have a game of ‘Chinese Whispers’ with no voice for lip-reading practice, or with signing.
  • Watch Sense's signing songs video for tips and ideas.

Communication play ideas

  • Make finger puppets from fabric scraps, draw on different ‘emotion’ faces and copy the emotion of the puppet that’s held up.
  • Make believe a knock at the door, ask ‘Who’s there?’ and role play the visitor, encourage different voices and emotions.
  • Show the difference between ‘p’ and ‘b’ sounds using your breath against a mirror and with your hands in front of your mouths to see and feel the difference. Look at what your mouth, lips and tongue are doing with ‘th’ and ‘f’ sounds.
  • Enjoy a storybook in a different, more visual way – watch Sense's sensory stories video for tips and ideas.
Further information
  • For more games and activities and information about the importance of play, download our free factsheet Toys and Play for Young Deaf Children produced in conjunction with The British Toy & Hobby Association.
  • Websites and apps can provide fun ways to help your child develop new skills, including interactive stories, matching games and dressing-up characters. To find out more go to
  • The Make Time 2 Play app gives hundreds of free play ideas and is free to download. Visit for more information. 


Full references for this webpage are available by emailing