No toys necessary for helping your little one learn to talk at the playground. Slides, swings, climbing things, other people, mulch… so much to explore! It’s also a great place to offer choices. “Slide or swing?” “More swinging or all done?” If your little one is running around too fast to ask him where he wants to go then just follow him and don’t worry about making a choice first. Ha! When my own son (who couldn’t stop running) was little, the baby/toddler swing was the perfect place for imitating sounds and words, making silly faces at him, and teaching him the sign for “more”.
Slides are great (when not too hot) for “up, up, up” and “ready, set…(go)” and “wheeeee!” The slides might be fast “whoosh”, slow “aaaaaah”, curvy “round and round and round”, or in a tunnel “ooooooo – echo echo”. Sometimes the slides are bumpy “bump bump bump”.
Climbing things can be opportunities to teach asking for “help” or saying “pull”, “push” or “one more”. Action and movement words may be the key with playground activities: run, jump, spin, step, go, stop, higher, lower, fast, slow, up, down, in, out, wheeee, uh-oh, kaboom! You’ll also find plenty of opportunities for peek-a-boo.
Whatever skill your little one is learning make sure you throw in “tada” or “you did it” or “hooray”! Cheers of accomplishment are important – and much appreciated by your little one for noticing her achievements.
Playing hide-n-seek or tag/chase are also great ways to use playgrounds for language learning “I see you” and “gonna get you”.
With preschoolers, making up an obstacle course “first, then, last” or having a scavenger hunt are fun playground activities.
One fun feature at several of our local playgrounds is a matching game (photo). Once little ones figure out how to spin the pieces around and notice that the parts make a whole, add in some words or sounds “turn, turn…stop”. To keep it simple just play with “yes” and “no” when you find the matches. Change your voice, repeat the word several times, or sing the word to make it playful and keep your little one engaged.
In this particular matching game, there are six animals to complete. Make sure you name what your little one is searching for: “monkey’s belly” and “bunny’s feet” and “bird’s head”. Take turns: “my turn” and “your turn”. Remember that the more help YOU need to complete the match and the more INCORRECT matches you find, the more opportunities your little one has to correct you! Then model a silly “oh mom…” (with a heavy sigh). Don’t forget those cheers of accomplishment!
In this video (below), you’ll hear how she talks herself through finding the right body parts and then proudly announces her accomplishment! With younger children, think of using single words or short phrases to accomplish the same task.
Transcript: “I did the monkey and now, elephant. We already have the head, now just the belly, and his feet. I got the whole elephant!”
Simpler version to use with little ones who aren’t yet using sentences: “All done monkey. Now elephant. Head. Hmmmm… belly…aaaaannnd feeeeet! Tada!”
Playgrounds can also be a place for little ones who are struggling to talk to just play and have minimal pressure to try words. They can just enjoy laughing, making meaningful (happy, silly, excited) sounds, and interacting with their parents who may be falling off of the balance beam or getting stuck on the slide.
For more outdoor play ideas check out:
Want indoor ideas? I’ve got those too!
Best toys and gifts: a speech therapist’s list!
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