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Let's Play: the speech and language way

Speech and language therapy ideas for playing at home

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Play ideas

Toys That Do Nothing

Have you ever been shopping for toys and picked up various boxes wondering “What does this toy do?”  Well, if you want a toy that will truly encourage interaction and communication then I hope the answer is nothing.

If the toy does nothing then the child gets to do everything.  He can make whatever noises he wants, organize it according to whatever concept makes sense to him, put the parts in various places, stack it up or knock it down.  He could even just push it around in his toy shopping cart.  The toy does nothing without the child.  No batteries, no second languages, no flashing lights, no automated directions to follow, no lengthy songs that play without rhyme or reason.  Instead of asking “what does this toy do?” ask yourself “what can my child do with this toy?”

The “do nothing” toy will allow the child to Create, be Active, and/or Pretend (CAP).  If you’ve already read Best toys and gifts: a speech therapist’s list then you are familiar with CAP!  IMG_20171105_201853

(Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. This means I may earn a small percentage of qualifying sales.)

Here is a small sample of what I mean by a “do nothing” toy:

Stacking Blocks Set Learning Toy

The best part of stacking is often knocking it all down!  If your little one is not yet able to stack, then let them be involved by counting down the “kaboom” or “crash” or completing the ready, set… “GO”!  Stack it up again by saying “up”, “on top” and naming the colors.  This particular toy also serves as a shape sorter which is perfect for practicing words like “yes”, “no”, “in”, “push” in addition to naming the shapes.   However, my favorite part of this toy is what I call the Mystery Box that serves as the base of the tower.  The yellow cube has an opening with a flap – that’s the “mystery” part and you can use it for anything that fits inside!  Use it as intended – to pull out the shapes that come with the toy – but then use it apart from the tower as a box to hold your favorite  puzzle pieces!  This adds an element of surprise to basic puzzle play.  Practice guessing “what’s next?”  Then excitedly name the piece that you find!  Practice taking turns “my turn” and “your turn”.  For more “mystery box” ideas click here.

Farm Magnets

Get your animal sounds ready!  Animal sounds and other meaningful sounds such as “uh-oh”, “brrrr”, “aha” and “hmmm” are super important to speech development.  With farm magnets, you get to practice “neigh,” “moo,” “oink” and tractor sounds “chug chug chug.”  If your refrigerator holds magnets then these toys can give your little one a kitchen task while you are busy with meal prep or cleaning.  Get out that “mystery box” from the stacking toy and put the magnets inside.  She can take each piece out and stick it to the fridge.   Then take each one off the fridge, put them back in the box and say “bye bye” to each animal. However, some refrigerators are not made for magnets.  In that case, cookie sheets are perfect!  Use a small cookie sheet in the car with your toddler or preschooler for magnet play on the go.

Go beyond animal sounds and use the magnets to set up scenes or trace each animal then use the outlines on a piece of paper as a puzzle.  Pretend to feed each animal with play food or put each animal to sleep “sssshhhh, night night” by turning them over.  Hide the animals around a darkened room and then use a flashlight to find them “cow, where are you?”  Drop the magnets into a dry sensory bin of uncooked pasta, rice, leaves, feathers, etc.  Then announce each one by name or sound as you dig them out and stick them to that cookie sheet.  To practice concepts like above, below, top, middle, and bottom, draw lines on a piece of paper and tape the paper to a magnetic surface.  Then organize the magnets by saying “put the cow above the tractor” or “the horse goes on the top line”.

Service Station Parking Garage

Your little car lover will get good use out of this garage!  The cars go “up” and “down” in the elevator, park “stop” in the numbered spots, slide “whee” or “go” fast down the ramp, fill up with gas “guhguhguh” and get clean in the car wash “scrub scrub” and “ssshhhh” for water spraying sounds.  Finally, the cars can go into the garage when broken “uh-oh” to get fixed or to sleep for the night “ssshh, night night car”.  Little ones may need some help moving the elevator or using the car wash so that’s a wonderful opportunity for you to teach them how to the use the word “help”.

Here are some more of my favorite do nothing toys:

Remember that when playing with your little one, you should use sounds and words which are at, or just above, your child’s expressive ability if you want them to try to imitate what you are saying.  If your child hasn’t yet said a true word then you can use single words or meaningful sounds rather than long sentences.  If your child is using some words then you can use two-three word phrases in play.  Reduce the questions you ask and just give them the words they might want to say.  Follow your child’s lead in play and who knows where their imagination will lead you!


Be sure to “like” and follow my Facebook page for all the latest play ideas.


Related: Why does speech therapy for little ones look like it’s just play?  Click on Where’s the speech in speech therapy?

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Some books are better left unread

Some books are funny, some books teach important social skills, some books are perfect for helping with early literacy skills, some books are more like songs when you read them… there are many reasons to read a book to a child.  However, there are some books that don’t need to be read at all!

Hidden picture books or “Look and Find” or “I spy” books are some of my favorite non-reading books for little ones.  Yes, there are often a few sentences written on the top of the page but who cares!?  Picture books are great for learning language and INTERACTING – so, if you have a little one who doesn’t sit long for books then skip the passive listening expectation and go straight to the fun!

(Disclosure: This article contains Amazon affiliate links which means I may receive a small portion of earnings from qualifying sales.)

Sure, you can ask your little ones to find all of the pictures listed, but that only requires them to point.  How do we get them to talk?

Here are some ideas for using hidden picture books to encourage talking:

  • Pretend to not be able to find the picture.  Yes, the large red apple may be front and center on the page but if you pretend you can’t see it, then your child has the opportunity to help you!  “Apple?  apple? hmmmm…I can’t find it.”  You may want to ask “Is this it?” as you point to a banana.  Your child may want to tell you “no” or say “banana” or just look at you like your crazy, but either way, at least you have his attention.
  • Wave to all of the people in the pictures.  Of course, you are supposed to go through the given list of pictures to find, but maybe it’s fun to just wave to Elmo!  Find Elmo on every page (even if he isn’t listed as a picture to find) and just enthusiastically wave “Hiiiii”.  Maybe even blow him a kiss if you haven’t seen him in a long time.  Blowing kisses is great for imitation and silly mouth play “mmmwah”.
  • Use playdough.  What?  In a book?  Yes.  Many times these “Look and Find” books for toddlers and preschoolers have wipeable pages.  Use playdough to cover the entire picture list and then just peel a section away to reveal the next picture to find.  OR, allow the child to cover the hidden picture with playdough once it’s found.
  • Describe the picture instead of naming it.  “Ok, next let’s find something that you eat and it’s red.”  You can even think aloud… “No, not a banana because that’s yellow.  No, not a car because I don’t eat that….” Give your little one time to figure out you’re talking about the apple!  If they just point to it, you can start the sentence but let her finish “yes, we can find the …. (apple)… next!”
  • Help your little one find the hidden picture with location clues.  It’s under the rock, it’s on top of the boat, it’s next to the tree, it’s at the top of the page… Once it’s been found you can announce “Hooray!” or “Tada!” or “Woot woot!” or whatever other excited sound you prefer.  Exclaim it 2 or 3 times then give your child an open-eyed expectant look and see if they shout “Yippee” also!
  • Make it active.  Take a photo of the list of pictures to find.  Print it out and cut it into cards.  Place the cards on the opposite side of the room or in a Mystery Box and then he has to go to one location to find the picture of what he is supposed to search for and then run to the other side of the room to find that picture in the scene.  Repeat.
  • Ask “wh” questions.  Just because there is a picture list, you don’t have to be limited to finding hidden pictures.  I like to ask about the larger scene: “where is this?”  Help your child see the whole picture and figure out if it’s in a kitchen or at a playground or at a school, etc.  Offering choices might be helpful.  “Maybe it’s a park or a bedroom”… hmmm.  I also ask “Who wants to turn the page?”  They can decide if the answer will be “me” or “you”.
  • Sound play.   If you have a little one, use the sound that a car or animal or person might make instead of asking questions or using long sentences.  Want to find the dog?  Just point to it and bark!  Then think loudly while looking “hmmmmm”.  When you find it, just bark again!  Your little one might do the same.  If you have a preschooler, think about the first letter sound of the pictures you want to find.  “Let’s find something that starts with the sound “d”.

One of the most important things to remember when interacting with books is to follow your child’s interests.  This may mean sitting across from her so that you can watch her eyes and only comment on the pictures that SHE is interested in.  When you make a noise for the dog that she is looking at, there is a better chance she will associate the barking with the dog.  She may even think it’s funny and try it herself.  Even if you are making the most amazing train noises, but she is looking at the person in the car, your efforts may not fully be appreciated or replicated.

The good news is that these books come in various levels of difficulty so your toddler through school-age kids (and even adults) can join in the search.  You can also find books with just about any princess, superhero, or TV show theme!

Here are some of my favorite books for finding things:

Another type of book to NOT read would be books without words (or just a few words).  You get to create your own story for your child’s interest and level of understanding, use your own meaningful sounds, or let your child make up their own ideas and tell YOU…

For a book that will help you learn how to make books fun and silly and NOT read to your little one…but really help your little one with noise making and talking… I highly recommend this book:


Be sure to follow me on Facebook for all of my play and language learning ideas.  Thanks for sharing!

Other posts you may be interested in:

Where’s the speech in speech therapy?

Playing with…BOOKS!

Top 5 NON-toy Toys

 

Where’s the speech in speech therapy?

“It looks like they are just playing.  Is that all they do?”

If you’ve ever watched a speech therapy session with a one- or two- year old, you may have asked yourself this question.  What looks like “just play” actually has a whole bunch of strategy and purpose that goes with it.

How do little ones typically learn to walk?  They explore.  They play.

How do little ones typically learn to talk?  They listen.  They watch.  They play.

Just as we don’t usually pick up a child’s foot and move it into position to teach walking, we also don’t take a child’s mouth and move it into position while simultaneously vibrating her vocal cords to create sound.  That just isn’t possible.

Children learn best through PLAY.  They are interested in play.  Play is motivating.  Play is fun.  They want to play… again and again and again.  Sometimes speech therapy starts with play and sometimes speech therapy starts before play.

I often wish that it was called “communication therapy” and that I was considered a “communication coach” but speech (and language) therapy is the name.  So, we have to explain.

In order to really play with others, the child first must be interested in others.  They have to learn the skills of making eye contact, imitating movements and sounds, taking turns, anticipating actions, smiling when things are funny, checking in with caregivers when things are scary, using gestures like pointing, and understanding that words and sounds have meaning.  When I say “uh-oh”, a child needs to know that something bad or messy just happened.  When I say “get your shoes on”, a child needs to anticipate that we may be leaving the house.  All of these things need to happen BEFORE speech and, sometimes, that’s where speech therapy has to start.  To figure out why a child isn’t yet using words we sometimes need to explore their PLAY skills.

“But my child plays just fine.  When do you teach him to talk?”

Great question!  If all of your child’s “pre-verbal”/play skills are developing on track then a speech therapist uses play to continue to engage your child on their level with a whole bunch of strategies to try and help little ones learn to use their voice.  Strategies might include offering choices, simplifying words, increasing meaningful sounds, reducing commands and questions, increasing visual attention to the speaker’s mouth, playing forgetful games, placing items just slightly out of reach, etc. etc. etc  (that’s a topic for entire textbook or two  – too much for one blog post!)  The point is, yes, we play.  However, we aren’t there to entertain a child.  We expect play to be a two-way street with communication as the ultimate goal.

So, the next time you watch a speech therapy session, look for the strategy behind the fun.  That’s the magic.

Need some ideas of WHAT to play with and HOW to play using speech and language strategies?  Check out:

Top 5 NON-toy Toys

Best toys and gifts: a speech therapist’s list!

POWER words

Toddler Speech: unraveling the mystery

 

Top 10 ways to practice speech and language skills OUTDOORS

Communication happens everywhere!  If you follow my blog you’ll know that while I love using toys to help little ones learn to talk, I’m equally a fan of using NO toys and taking the strategies (modeling, sound play, offering choices, etc.) you use in play to whatever location or activity is interesting to your child.

Here are 10 ideas for playing OUTDOORS…

  1. Tap two sticks together: “tap, tap, tap”, take turns to practice imitation, play “guess that tune”
  2. Stack rocks into a tower or pile: “big, small, flat, bumpy, round”, “up, up, up” and “uh-oh!”
  3. Throw rocks into a creek: change your voice to reflect BIG splashes “BOOM” and little splashes “plop”
  4. Doodle in the dirt or gravel: grab a stick and make a long line then pick a sound “whee, sssss (snake), weeooooweeeooo (firetruck)”; practice shapes, letters, or “X” marks the spot for treasure hunting
  5. Treasure hunting: fill a bag or container with various nuts, rocks, sticks, petals, leaves, etc. Name what you find and try to find “more”.
  6. Line up rocks/sticks:  make a “roadblock” or a “parade” of rocks – or just call it a line.  Name each rock with a different word or syllable and say it as you touch the rock “ba, ma, da, ga” or “ba, be, bi, bo, bu”.  Then throw them one by one into the creek using their syllable names: “bye bye da, bye bye ga”.
  7. Build a fairy house (or any tiny, imaginary figure house):  collect the sticks then prop them up and count how many you need.  Name your “fairy” and pretend to say “hi, bye, night night” to her/him.
  8. Throw sticks into the creek:  watch them float away and narrate their journey –  “ooo” on the smooth and peaceful stretches and “bump” or “bang” when it runs into a rock.
  9. Stepping stones: whether there are tree stumps or rocks in the water or logs across the pathway, sing a familiar song and step to the beat.  Take the tune of Row, Row, Row your boat and sing “step, step, step on it; careful as you go; step, step, step on it; don’t step on your toe” – or some other award-winning-made-up-on-the-spot kind of song!
  10. Freeze game: If your little one prefers to run instead of take a stroll through the woods, and the word “stop” is not working so well – try “freeze” instead.  When you yell “freeze” he needs to strike a pose or turn into ice or become his favorite superhero or whatever seems fun/meaningful.  The freeze game has been a huge help recently with my own two runners – one freezes into superhero poses and the other freezes into princess poses.  Then I have to guess who they are… endlessly going through my list of possible answers.

 

Here are some other outdoor play-related posts: Playing…outside!, Talking… at the Playground!, After the rain…PUDDLES!

Looking for strategies to use?  Read Where are the WORDS?, Two little words to encourage communication, Magical Moments

You  may also be interested in: Top 5 NON-toy Toys, Playing with…NO toys

 

20180422_164500(1)
So much to talk about when things are THIS interesting!

 

 

Top 5 NON-toy Toys

Children love toys.  Don’t they?  We give them so many colorful, musical, pretty toys… then our toddlers completely ignore those and play with diaper wipes, dog toys and empty shoe boxes.

Sometimes the best toys are not toys at all.  They did not come from a toy store, did not come wrapped in pretty packaging, and did not promise any kind of “educational” benefit to your toddler.  These “non-toys” are sometimes what your child will play with for a much longer period of time, use in more creative ways, and cost you much less money!  These are the toys that allow your child to explore and be curious.  (Read: Toys that do nothing)

Engaging your child using their interests is the best way to teach early communication skills.  The “toy” in the play can be anything – including YOU!  Your child may be interested in blocks, cars, dolls, the ceiling fan, food, sticks, or empty boxes.  Those interests are the objects or activities that we can use to teach things like problem solving, turn taking, imitation, sharing enjoyment with others, watching how others react, requesting objects and actions, learning to communicate…. THOSE ARE THE GOALS of play.

The toy is not the goal.  It’s just the tool we use to teach.

Since the toy can be anything, here is my TOP 5 LIST OF NON-TOY TOYS (in no particular order):

(Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.)

*Plastic cups:  20180412_170439Stack it, decorate it, use it for target practice with bean bags, or wear it as a hat… the plastic cup could be your favorite non-toy toy.

  • Use it as a pull toy – Punch a hole in the bottom, pull a string through that hold and tie it up in a big knot so it doesn’t come back out.  For extra noise making fun, fasten a small bell to the knot inside the cup and you have instant pull toy your little one can create noise with all over your house!  Ready, set, GO!
  • Hearing your own voice as an echo is pretty fun and can be motivating for little ones to practice lots of sounds when they hear their own voice – amplified!  Sure, you can buy a microphone, but a plastic cup gives you the same effect and you just had to grab one out of your pantry that was leftover from a birthday party or cookout or your every day casual dining – ha!

*Empty boxes and containers of all sorts:  lp-containersFavorite toys for one and two year olds?  Anything you can push, pull, fill and dump.   Empty boxes and containers fulfill ALL of these requirements.  Think food storage containers, diaper boxes, wipes boxes, tissue boxes, parmesan cheese containers, zippered bags, water bottles and plastic bins of any sort.  If you shop on Amazon you get a box delivered straight to your house every time – BONUS!  What to put in the boxes? Your little one will figure that out!  Try puzzle pieces, toy cars, play food, shoes, socks…the possibilities are endless.  For more ideas go to Playing with…containersPurposeful Packaging, and Mystery Boxes and Sensory Bins.lp-boxes

*Paper towel, toilet paper, and gift wrap tubes:  20180415_135643What might just be items for the recycling bin can FIRST be: binoculars, a megaphone, logs for a campfire, ramps and tunnels for small balls and cars, AND tapping sticks for a marching band.  Attach a few paper towel rolls together for golf clubs, baseball bats, and sticks to knock over the plastic cup towers.  Use them as oars in your empty box boats or attach them to the back of the “boat” and make a sail or flagpole.

*Colorful foam mat: Ok, so this one may not be an everyday kind of item, but it is just SO much more than a mat!  Of course the colored squares are perfect for learning colors but take the mat apart for:

  • Stepping Stones for “hot lava” games
  • Helping little ones follow the path of an obstacle course
  • Sitting spots for a pretend picnic
  • Matching same colored objects
  • Jumping targets
  • Bean bag toss targets
  • Smacking the squares together like cymbals in a marching band
  • Line up matching colors so you can walk down the “red path” and the “blue path” to see what treasure awaits

If you get the colored square mat pictured above and resist the temptation to get the alphabet mats and the mats with edge pieces then you can construct small houses, stack them up and knock them down, build “chairs” for stuffed animals, and have longer trails to walk on!

*Flashlights: 20180412_170505 Turn the lights off, or just dim them, and get out a flashlight!  Make shadow puppets if you are so talented or just shine the light around the room and let your child see their toys and familiar surroundings in a whole new way!  Name what you find and wonder aloud what you might find next.  Tape pictures or flash cards on the wall and play seek-n-find games.  Put the light on the floor and have your toddler try to “stomp” on it or give it a “high five” before the light moves away.


HONORABLE MENTIONS: There are so many non-toys that could have made this list, but here are a few more that are not only interesting to many toddlers, but also allow plenty of opportunities for practicing communication skills:

  1. Bucket with a handle – for collecting stuff (any stuff) while you’re at a park or playground and hauling around treasures at a beach or just to the next room.
  2. Couch cushions and pillows – for soft landing zones when your toddler needs to run and jump or for obstacle courses or for fort building.
  3. Blankets, towels – endless hours of Peekaboo or pretend play with stuffed animals.
  4. Junk mail – cut out pictures of interest, cover with contact paper if it is especially interesting, then use as decoration or practice delivering mail or use as flash cards.20180412_170239
  5. Laundry baskets – This may seem like a repeat of the empty boxes and containers, but a laundry basket (or plastic bin) may also serve as a sled!  Wheeee!

DSC03081


Whatever object or “toy” is the interest, keep your child engaged and learning by:

  1. Imitate what THEY do with it
  2. After you imitate their idea, try something a little different to see if they will imitate your idea
  3. Add a sound (or word or short phrase) to what you are doing (read: Where are the WORDS?)
  4. Offer help, but then wait – don’t actually help unless they truly want it (read: Help!)
  5. Take turns with it
  6. Pretend that your object doesn’t quite work like theirs and act confused
  7. Hide it or pretend you can’t find it – then call out to it while searching
  8. Pretend that a stuffed animal or puppet is doing the same thing with the object

Complete the following sentence in the picture below and you’ll find what your child truly wants to play with (and talk about!)

nontoys

Remember when it comes to early communication – YOU are the best toy above all!

Thank you for reading and sharing!


Final note:  While non-toys may be awesome for your own children, others might not think it’s neat to receive paper towel tubes as a gift!  If you need to give a gift to a young child, here are some ideas…Best toys and gifts: a speech therapist’s list!

Playing with…pound-a-ball

This is one of my go to toys for speech therapy with little ones.  First off, I’m actually encouraging him to HIT something… hard!  Yes, little ones GET to bang, bang, bang (with purpose!)  That usually gets their attention.  Then the ball rolls and bounces all the way down the various obstacles… just so that you can grab it at the bottom and do it all again – these are amazing toys for interaction and communication if used the right way!

There are many different versions of this toy and most come with a hammer or mallet.  I tend to put those away until baby is older because 1) it may be too hard for little ones to pound the balls with the hammer and 2) that hammer has a magical way of banging someone in the face every time.

This is a great toy that does nothing and lets your little one do all the work.  No batteries required!

(Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.)

The basic idea is to put the balls in the matching circles on top and then bang them down.  Now, let’s add some adult interaction and language play…

1)  Babies may need some assistance as it requires some strength to push the balls through the top.  That’s a great time to model “help?” and “PUUUSSSSHHH”.

2)  A pencil bag is a great way to store the balls when not in use and it allows for practice with zipping skills “zzzzzzzzzip”.  Model “more” and “open” as well.

3)  When placing the ball on top, slide it slowly up the side of the tower and say “up” “up”… “top!”

4)  Choose your exciting catch phrase for the big event and make sure you pause a second before you push the ball down…”ready, set…go” or “1..2….3” or “push the….ball”.

5)  Slightly tip/elevate the bottom of the toy so that the balls DON’T just slide right out. “uh-oh!”  Model how to call “baaaall”  “OUT!”  Your voice suddenly becomes the way to get the ball to appear (as you position the toy level again).  This is a great way to teach that words/voices have power!

6)  Try a basic imitation game by tapping two balls together then giving your baby the other two. Invite her to try it.  If she does then tap on your knee, your nose, your foot, etc. “tap, tap, tap”

7)  Wave to the baby in the mirror (the inside wall of the toy is reflective) “hi baby” then turn it around so the baby disappears! “uh-oh, where’s baby?”  Then knock on the tower “knock, knock” (turn it around again) “there she is!”

Children like to hit the balls and watch them roll down the ramps, but the toy can be so much more!

      


Be sure to “like” and follow my Facebook page for all the latest play ideas and for information regarding my toddler play class “Let’s Play” as well as my parent workshop “Sounds to Sentences.”


Other posts you may like:

Best toys and gifts: a speech therapist’s list!

Purposeful Packaging

Playing with…containers

The spatula challenge…

Station! Station!

It’s a rainy day.  What do you do with your kids?  When I was a child, we played “Station!  Station!”  It was quite possibly the best game ever invented.

Here I go dating myself but… when I was in elementary school we didn’t have cable TV, Ipads, Netflix, cell phones (smart or dumb), electronic toys that spoke to us in other languages, or places called play cafes.  We played outside – even in the rain!  We were fortunate that the neighbors across the street were also similar-aged kids so we all played together.  We would send smoke signals when we wanted to get together.  Ok, not really smoke signals but what did people do before texting?  Well, we actually knocked on each other’s doors or would play charades in our front windows to figure out if we were going to play together outside at that moment.

Once it started raining (not storming – our mothers did impose some limits) we all put on boots and raincoats, collected our buckets and got to WORK (I mean, play, but we took this game seriously).  This was when houses had downspouts that did not go into the ground but just gushed out the water from your roof right on the ground by the side of your house.  Why is this important?  Because in “Station! Station!” the ENTIRE point of the game was to put a bucket at the bottom of each downspout (the “station”) to collect the water.  Then you would take the full bucket and run as fast as you could (without spilling) so you could dump it into the centrally located empty trash can in the center of the driveway.  Yep, this was basically a strategic game of FILL and DUMP – and it was amazing.  When the small buckets at the bottom of the downspouts filled up you would yell “STATION STATION” while you transported your bucket to the trash can so that someone else would replace that bucket you had just taken away.  It was critical that no one let a downspout be without a bucket for even a minute as you would lose precious water.  This is the entire game.  Run around with buckets, collecting rainwater from the downspouts, pouring that water into a trash can.  The big moment came when the trash can was finally filled with water and everyone worked together to push the heavy trash can over and dump the water into the street!

Yep.  That was the whole point.  Fill and dump.  Repeat.

We made up lots of games outside but this rainy day game was special.  We had strategy, we had teamwork, we had messy clothing, we had laughter… WE HAD FUN!

While I can’t exactly recreate Station Station with my own kids due to our downspouts now going into the ground, we can still go outside in the rain and play.  Most kids love splashing in puddles!DSC_0098

I get that playing in the rain isn’t for everyone, but you can also wait until the rain stops and go puddle hunting… After the rain…PUDDLES!

Still aren’t into the idea?  That’s ok.  Here are some INDOOR activities as well…

Playing with…egg hunts!

Indoor play with an active toddler

 


Be sure to “like” and follow me on Facebook for all of my play and language learning tips!

Playing with…egg hunts!

Easter is coming which means egg hunts are on the way!  Taking your little one to a large, community-based egg hunt may be a bit overwhelming but PLAYING with egg hunts at home can be a great way to practice communication while finding all kinds of hidden treasures.  Then you get to put the treasure in a basket, talk about what you found, dump it all out… and start all over!  Lots of opportunities to practice talking.

If you’re hiding eggs for a little one who still puts everything in his mouth, you may want to hide egg shakers rather than plastic (breakable) eggs.  Egg shakers make great musical instruments as well!  Hide them in plain sight.  Practice searching for eggs by calling out “EEeeegg, where are you?”  Don’t direct your child, but use short phrases to describe where they are already looking.  “on the table? Noooo.  under the chair? Noooo.  on the ceiling? No way.  next to your book?  YYYESSSSS!”

Be sure to make the moment of victory (finding the egg) significant by cheering “hooray!  tada!  did it!  found it!”… or whatever makes sense to you and is easy for your little one to imitate.

Once your treasure is collected take time to explore what has been found.  Take out the “red” eggs or “blue” eggs, “shake shake shake” them, “tap tap tap” them, toss them back “in” the basket together then ask if your little one wants to do it again.

Have older kids or siblings?

  • Make it a race… Ready, Set… “GO”.  How about an egg on a spoon race?  Use your own eggs and spoons or buy a game set.  Either way, it’s a perfect game to help even your high speed racers try moving a bit more slowly and carefully!   When the egg drops “uh-oh” or “crash” or “kaboom!”
  • Start in a different room and give your preschooler a two-part direction “look on the table and under the book” to practice comprehension.
  • Want to practice concepts other than colors?  Write letters on paper, cut them out, hide them inside plastic eggs.  Do the same thing with numbers or shapes.  See if older kids can find the letters in their name or find matching uppercase and lowercase letters.

An empty egg carton is a great sorting toy! lp-easter Put snacks in each space to help with fine motor skills as well as sorting and labeling each snack item as you go.  Practice turn-taking “my turn, your turn” and mistake-making “uh-oh”, “maybe not”, “you fixed it!”  Use the egg carton as a paint holder, taste testing container for small bites of foods, garage for small cars, Lego organizer, or matching game as you take those plastic eggs with pictures inside then organize them into the egg carton – instant memory game!

Using the fake grass of Easter baskets can be a great filler for a Sensory Bin.  Hide the eggs in a plastic bin of fake grass and have an egg hunt that way.

Need to buy an Easter gift?  Here are some ideas:

Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

                 


Try some of these strategies when playing with little ones:

Magical Moments – using the right word at the right time

Two little words – inviting your toddler to name objects without asking them to do it

Where are the WORDS? – when words are too hard, focus on SOUNDS

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Indoor play with an active toddler

When the weather keeps you indoors with an active toddler the days can seem long.  Not everyone has a fully loaded basement or playroom with a trampoline, basketball hoop, climbing structure, slide, etc.  Even with all of that great play equipment, how do you find ways to help your little one with talking during all of that excitement?  Most active play is an obvious set up for introducing “ready, set…GO” – allowing your little one to fill-in the “go” part.  But…then what?  He’s jumping and climbing and going crazy and you may be a distant memory.

(Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.)

Finding play activities that encourage speech and language skills can be a challenge – if your preferred list of activities requires him to sit.  I say this because when most people ask friends and family, and maybe even their pediatrician, for advice on teaching a little one to talk the responses are usually:

  1. just keep talking to him
  2. read to him

I’ve already written Playing with…BOOKS to encourage active book time rather than sitting and attempting to read to a toddler who doesn’t appear to be paying any attention at all.  As with books, Playing with…Flash Cards does not need to require sitting either.

Sensory experiences or “artsy craftsy” stuff can make sitting (or at least remaining in one place) a little more interesting and purposeful. IMG_20170901_091818 Mystery Boxes and Sensory Bins can make old toys new again.  Playing with… PLAYDOUGH may lead to some mess and small dried pieces of dough stuck to your floor, but most toddlers will find it fun!  Playing with…art (crayons, markers, stickers, window clings, pudding, shaving cream, magnetic boards, water) is a great way to focus on talking while exploring with your hands.

What about those who need even more movement?  Here are some of my favorites:

1. Make an obstacle course – Use the words “in, on, around, under, over, through, out, off, fast, slow, jump, step, march, hop, pull, push” to describe what needs to happen at each obstacle.  Use whatever you already have: couch cushions, chairs, pillows, blankets, and empty boxes to turn your living room into a new play area with a starting line and a finish line.  If your child isn’t yet using words, try sounds like “oooo” for a darkened tunnel, “ba ba ba” when they march over the bumpy pillows, “whee” when it’s time to move fast, “tada” or “hooray” or just loud cheers and claps upon completion of their first lap!  Other great obstacle items to include would be painter’s tape on a non-carpeted floor.  Use it to give direction or as a balance beam. Make boxes or squares with it and then jump into the squares like stepping stones.  Use it to tape down colored squares of construction paper to practice naming colors too!  If you have bubble wrap, place it on the floor for your little one to walk on “pop pop pop”.  Colored foam mat squares or discs can also help keep your little one on course.

2.  Hide and Seek – This does not need to be elaborate.  My daughter hides in the same toy box EVERY. TIME.  I count to 10 and then wander all over the house wondering aloud where she could possibly be.  This game is perfect for modeling, or demonstrating, to your child how to ask simple repetitive questions:  “Are you in here? NO.  Are you in the closet? NO. Are you under the bed? NO. Are you under this blanket? NO.  Are you in the toy box?  YES!”  Remember to answer your own questions too.  Play this game with stuffed animals – especially if there are no other siblings available.  For little ones who aren’t yet mobile, you can still play Peek-A-Boo!  The Power of Peekaboo

lp-boxes3.  Empty box – In my opinion, a large empty box may be the world’s best toy!  If you shop online then you also get these wonderful “toys” shipped to your house for FREE when you purchase toys, diapers and household needs – ha!  Check out these posts I’ve already written: Playing with…containers and Playing with…diaper boxes.

4.  Flashlight – Turn the lights off, or just dim them, and get out a flashlight!  Make shadow puppets if you are so talented or just shine the light around the room and let your child see their toys and familiar surroundings in a whole new way!  Name what you find and wonder aloud what you might find next.  Tape pictures or flash cards on the wall and place seek-n-find games.  Put the light on the floor and have your toddler try to “stomp” on it or give it a “high five” before the light moves away.

5.  Dance party – Shake, bounce, sway, do the robot…whatever it takes to get some silliness going!  When your toddler imitates your actions, they may be more willing to imitate your sounds as well.  Clap and say “clap”, wiggle “fast” and “slow”, wave your arms up “high” and then wave them down “low”.  For more ideas about using music to help with speech go to Playing with…MUSIC and SINGING!

6.  Road tape IMG_20180104_124603638– Anyone have a car or train lover?  Sure you can buy all the toy garages and train tracks, but for even more movement on an indoor day (or just to change things up a bit) try tape on the floor that looks like a road or train tracks!  Heck, make it part of your obstacle course (see #1).  For play and language ideas with vehicles check out Indoor CAR WASH and Playing with… CARS.

7. AND 8. The last two activities go together and are possibly my favorite active indoor play ideas for speech and language practice:  Scavenger Hunts and Special Deliveries.
Each of these can be expanded or modified (in distance and difficulty) for preschool and school-age children but even toddlers get the basic ideas of 1) matching 2) finding pieces to make a whole and 3) organizing or giving or delivering objects – however you want to describe it.  The key with these activities for speech and language practice is to play WITH your child:  offer choices during play, wonder aloud about where objects could be or where they should go and use words and sounds at their level.  Let’s take a closer look…

Scavenger Hunts You don’t have to create a fancy color print out of various pictures or objects to go find in your house.  Just use any “Memory” game cards as they already come with matches!  Hide half of the cards in one room and then set out their matching card in the starting room.  Name each object your toddler needs to find/match and, as always, wonder aloud where it could be and then where it was found.  For extra points, put the cards in the “starting room” in a box so they get to choose the next picture to go find.  Don’t have a matching game?  How about a puzzle?  Use it the same way.  Hide the pieces in one room (or one side of the same room) and place the board at your starting location.  Shape sorters also work well.  For those who want something that is already made, try “Seek a Boo”.  It’s also a nice scavenger hunt/matching game gift idea for those with little ones.
Special Deliveries – With scavenger hunts we collected items, now we’re going to distribute them!  Use a shopping cart or a box or bag to carry the “mail”.  Use objects that match in color or category.  Set up a blue object in one room, red in another, green in another then give your toddler or preschooler the items to deliver (match).  Deliver foods to stuffed animals that you’ve set up in different rooms, deliver cars to designated parking spots or put baby dolls to bed on various blankets.  With preschoolers, write first letters on cups or paper plates and have them deliver objects with those same first sounds to the corresponding letter.

Here are some more examples of toys that work well for scavenger hunts and special deliveries:

   

Learning to communicate doesn’t need to be done at a table or while seated.  It just needs a purpose.  Most toddlers prefer to move so we may as well join them!

Once you can get back outdoors you may be interested in:

Playing in the… SNOW!

Talking… at the Playground!

After the rain…PUDDLES!


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