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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

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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Celebrating New Year’s Eve with little ones

Play ideas for little ones on New Year’s Eve??? Ha!  Maybe during the afternoon…

I’m thinking most of the people who read my blog have young children and therefore you don’t actually have much control over when you wake up or when you go to sleep at your house. Midnight celebrations into the wee hours may be a thing of the past.

However, if you’re looking to mark this occasion with your little one try some of these play and language learning ideas:

  1.  Have a countdown (or even a count UP)… then make something exciting happen (like dropping a ball)!
    “1…2…3…4…5…” (pause to heighten the anticipation and allow your child to fill-in) “GO!”
  2. Use party blowers (good for mouth muscles) and rattles/shakers to make lots of noise – “woohoo” “yeah” “ooooo”!  Noise making is always a good “ready, set… GO” activity and a great opportunity to imitate actions – shake up high, shake down low, shake it fast, shake it slow.
  3. Play some music and have a dance party! Remember…if you do it, say it – “shake, jump, wiggle, clap”.  Playing with…MUSIC and SINGING!
  4. Have a parade and “march” while banging on a drum or sounding other noisemakers!  Parades!
  5. Look back through the photos from this past year and practice naming the people who were a special part of your little one’s life “hi mommy,” “hi daddy,” and also practice their own name!  Blow kisses, name favorite toys and foods, wonder aloud who that person in the picture could be “hmmm” and give your little one an opportunity to help you remember.  Pretending not to know the names of things is one of my favorite strategies for speech and language development.  If you have more than one child and accidentally use the wrong name, your older child will be quick to let you know – kids LOVE to correct their parents!

When the New Year’s celebration is over, make a resolution to get more sleep in 2018.  Oh, maybe that’s just mine.

Happy 2018 everyone!


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Other posts that may be helpful for play and language learning ideas during these cold months:

Playing in the… SNOW!

Playing with…MUSIC and SINGING!

Indoor CAR WASH

Playing in the… SNOW!

Bundle up!  It’s time to play in the snow!  As with any new experience, some little ones will love it right away and proceed to cover themselves with the fluffy white stuff while others may need a slower, gentler introduction.

Start by watching from the window.  Look at the snowflakes and “oooh aaah” while you allow your little one to take it all in.  Talk about how snow is “cold, brrrr” and it can be “wet” and “pretty, aaaahh”.  Take the tune of London Bridge is Falling Down and sing:

“All the snow is falling down, falling down, falling down.  All the snow is falling down.  It’s white on the ground.”

Bringing the snow INSIDE can be a warmer (and easier) way to experience snow.  Go outside and fill a bucket or load some snow on a cookie tray.  Bring it inside for your little one to touch/explore and drive pretend snowplows through!  “Pusssh, wheeee, beep beep, all clear!”  Try to shape the snow into a ball “roll, roll, roll” or “pat, pat, pat” into a pancake.  Put a little food coloring in for fun and “WOW!”

Getting ready to play in the snow is a whole new experience as well.  LOTS of opportunity to practice getting dressed and talking about clothing and body parts.  Take the tune of If Your Happy and You Know It and sing:

“Put your boots on your feet on your feet.  Put your boots on your feet on your feet (clap, clap).  Put your boots on your feet.  Put your boots on your feet.  Put your boots on your feet on your feet (clap, clap).” – or use tongue clicks instead of clapping as your hands will be busy getting your little one ready!  Repeat song for 1) arms in your coat 2) legs in your pants 3) hat on your head 4) hands in your mittens… then start all over once your toddler starts to take it all off!

Now, we’ve finally made it OUTSIDE! DSC02584Yippee!!  If your little one isn’t yet walking well enough for snow, just let them sit down and play.  It’s like a sandbox, but colder!  Get out some buckets and shovels or just let them cover your hands.  “Tap, push, stack, crush, crunch” and whatever other snow action seems like fun.  Show them how to make a snow angel and “flap, flap, flap” your wings.  Find a small hill and just log roll down “roll, roll, roll” (yes, I always say things in 3s). Stomp and make tracks to play follow the leader or just “stomp, stomp, stomp” and see whose footprints are bigger.

20171209_171810

Whether you allow your little one to eat the snow or not, most will give it a taste!  It’s fun to feel the flakes on their tongue and it’s a good way to practice imitating parents’ funny faces!  If you want to encourage more of it – “yummmmmy” but if you would prefer not to encourage it – “yucky”.

There are also the tried and true snow activities: snowball making, snowman building, and SLEDDING!  With a baby, sledding may be more like pulling him through the snow over a flat surface rather than a speedy downhill plunge, but either way it’s still a fun ride – “wheee” and “ready, set, go!”

Here’s a fun fact about learning to talk and playing in the snow:  your little one might talk MORE once when you get back inside and recap your adventures – after their mouth unfreezes – ha!

Of course, you don’t need anything to go outside and experience the snow (aside from appropriate warm clothing), but here are some fun things to consider:

(Disclaimer:  These photos will take you to Amazon and are affiliate links.)

 

Once your back inside, find some other ways to play which encourage speech and language skills with these posts:

Mystery Boxes and Sensory Bins

Playing with…BOOKS!

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


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Purposeful Packaging

The excitement of a new toy often leads to hurried package opening with the paper or bag or box tossed aside.  Do you know how many communication opportunities may have just been missed?

Zipper bags (like those that are used for Mega Bloks) are a communication tool! (Which is why I keep all of my puzzles pieces in ziploc bags – Playing with… PUZZLES!)

For little ones who can’t quite pull the zipper on their own, you can show them how the zipper moves when you make the “zzzzzzz” sound but it stops when your sound stops too!  Then offer them a turn.  Here’s an opportunity for you to see if they need help.  Ask with a single word “help?” and even use the sign to go with it for bonus points.  Once the zipper moves again, here comes that “zzzz” sound!  Once the bag is finally open… “HOORAY!” or “TADA!” or  “You did it!”  Then zip it back up and do it again – ha!

Keep the bag open but when your little one reaches to take a block out, you can playfully pretend the newly opened bag is now a mouth and will nibble on their hand “yum yum yum”.   If that gets the giggles going then keep it up!  Tell the mouth “no, no, no” or “oooopen” or “stop”.   Heck, zip the “mouth” back up when he’s full and can’t eat anymore then start the game all over.  You may never even get the blocks out of the bag or you might get the blocks out just so that you can “feed” the bag.  Who cares?  You might’ve just had more communication and interaction by playing with the bag then you will once the child dumps all the blocks out and then leaves the room.

The packaging that a toy (or food or object) comes in can be part of the game so look for opportunities to make it purposeful beyond just storage.  My mother reused plastic food containers for just about everything and I’m fairly certain she has never actually purchased a true food storage container in her life.  We constantly washed out and re-purposed yogurt, cottage cheese, cool whip containers, etc.  My sister’s favorite pull toy was an empty thread spool on a long piece of string!

Some of my other favorite packaging comes with blankets and bedding – almost always a transparent zippered bag.

Anyone buy bulk pretzels or animal crackers that come in huge plastic tubs?  Perfect for communication (and toy storage and as a drum and as a water play tub)!  Playing with…containerscontainer

How about the plastic container that stores baby wipes?  I love to see what a little one can do with that slot at the top and what they can fit inside.

Even the banana peel is a communication opportunity.  Hand the peeled banana to your little one and see what happens.  Do they just try to eat it anyway or look at you for help?  Any foods that have wrappers work just as well.

Anyone have Magic Tracks at their house?  The box it comes in makes a perfect tunnel!magic track

magic track tunnel

NOTE:  Of course, please do not give plastic bags to small children as they are not toys.  Also please do not hand young children unopened food items if they are just as likely to eat the box or wrapper.

Below are pictures to Amazon (affiliate links) to items that come with PURPOSEFUL PACKAGING!  Also, it’ll be shipped to your home which means you’ll get a cardboard box at no extra cost – BONUS!

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Santa Claus is coming to town!

The holiday season with little ones can be a magical time.  It can also be a lot of work and stress, but let’s focus on the fun stuff for now.  Time to practice sounds and words and songs with a Christmas theme to help little ones learn to talk and enjoy the festivities!

Some of our favorites activities at this time of year are going to the zoo to see all of the lights, watching the Christmas parade, driving around to see all of the lights/decorations (which is easier once the little ones can face forward in their car seats), and visiting Santa.  That Santa visit took us a few years to accomplish as sitting on a strange man’s lap dressed in a costume didn’t seem like a good idea to either of my kids when they were babies or toddlers.  I get it.  We just waved and watched.

Christmas is a great time to practice fun sounds and songs whenever you start to see decorations pop up.  In fact, running your daily errands in stores may be your little one’s first experience with lots of new sparkly, musical, brightly colored objects they’ve never seen before!

Here are just some of my favorite sounds/words/songs to use during Christmastime…

1. Tongue clicks for reindeer hooves.  Anytime you see Rudolph in a book, a store window, or hear his song playing while you shop – go ahead and click your tongue.  Don’t forget to point out his flashing “red nose – ooo aaahh”.

2. Sing “Jingle Bells” with shakers/bells and make sure to get a big “HEY” in there at the end!  This song isn’t all that easy for little ones, but the ending can be fun to SHOUT!  “Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh – HEY!”

3. Make lots of excited sounds while looking at Christmas lights “ooo”, “wow”, “blink blink”, “tada”, “yay!”  Gasping with excitement is good too!

4. Yummy sounds for all the treats and cookies “mmmm”, exaggerated sniffing to introduce the smells of cinnamon, Christmas trees, gingerbread, and minty candy canes.

5. Sing “Deck the Halls” and change the “Fa la la las” to different consonants…”ba ba ba…da da da…wa wa wa”.  Heck just change ALL the words so that it makes sense for your little one:

“Time to eat let’s go have dinner – yum yum yum yum yuuuuum yum yum yum yum.”

“Time for bath let’s pour the water – rub a dub a duuuuub dub dub dub dub.”

“Time to sleep let’s go to bed – night night night night niiiiight ssssh ssssh sssh sssh.”

6. Cold sounds… “brrrr”.  Yep, you’ll get a lot of use of this one.  Depending on where you live, you may get to introduce lots of words for playing in the snow, too.

7. If you have a train around your treechristmas train(or you go visit one of the many on display this time of year) “choo choo”, “ding dong”, “hi” and “bye”.  My son’s first true word was “bye” as he waved to the train going around the track at Christmastime so this one has a special place in my heart.  It was a highly repetitive way to practice the same two words “hi” and “bye” over and over and over again as that train kept his attention LOCKED.

8.  Last but definitely not least…. Santa!!! “Ho, ho, ho”.  Whether Santa visits your house or not, it would be hard to avoid images of this big bellied man dressed in a red suit throughout the entire month of December.  Fortunately, he has a silly and fairly easy sound for your little one to repeat.  Hard to say “ho, ho, ho” and not play with your voice even a little bit!

Books can help little ones get a better understanding of what is going on with all of the new sights and sounds.  Here are some that I like (photos are affiliate links to Amazon):
               

Other get-ready-for-Christmas toys that also encourage interaction and language learning:

If you’re looking for toy ideas for little ones that will encourage interaction and help children learn to talk, go to my full list of creative, active, and pretend toys Best toys and gifts: a speech therapist’s list! then check out Toys that do nothing! 

Don’t forget to save all of those boxes that the toys come in (another good reason to buy from Amazon – more boxes) because they may be your baby’s favorite gift!

Merry Christmas!!!

christmas kids

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.  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!  Instead of asking “what does this toy do?” ask yourself “what can my child do with this toy?”

Some of my favorite toys for speech and language development that do nothing are Melissa & Doug toys!

(Disclosure: the photos below are affiliate links to Amazon.)

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 Melissa & Doug 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 for speech and language skills, as well as information about my play classes and parent workshops.

Halloween play

“Boo!”  It’s time for Halloween which means it’s the best time to capitalize on one of the easier words for little ones to learn – BOO!  If they haven’t mastered “boo” in the classic game of Peekaboo then it’s time to revisit the word for Halloween fun!

If you’ve read many of my posts, you’ll know that arts and crafts are not my area of expertise but there are tons of crafty moms who will fill your Google search and Pinterest pages!  I tend to stick with painting pumpkins, sticker scenes, window clings and tissue ghosts.  Painting pumpkins is fun and messy and a perfect time to practice words like “up, down, water, tap, dot” and all the colors.  We add stickers on the second day (once paint dries).  Sticker scenes are great for language such as naming which person/object goes in which area of the house and what goes under, next to, beside, in front of, etc.

trick or treat

Trick or treating can be a great way to practice speech and language skills! You say a word and you get a treat… pretty big incentive!

Before you head out, have your little one practice holding a bag or bucket and say some version of “trick or treat” to mom, dad, neighbors, grandparents, puppets, dolls… and let them receive something, anything so that they get the idea. Then when the big event comes they will better prepared and able to maybe say something to all of the complete strangers they are about to meet!

“Trick or treat” is a pretty complicated phrase to say accurately – even for preschoolers. Here are some of the common versions of this Halloween phrase:

“chi uh chee”
“ti uh tee”
“twik oh tweet”
“di oh dee”

If this is just too much for your little one, try just practicing “please” and “thank you”. If they aren’t yet talking or are hesitant to talk to strangers give them a card to show or to point to that says “trick or treat”.  I know I didn’t talk to anyone I didn’t know until I was at least 10 years old…or something like that.  Trick or treating was fairly intimidating to me as a child.

One of the best Halloween songs is “Five Little Pumpkins”.  It has gestures, meaningful sounds, words, phrases, and you can make visuals pretty easily with five orange, round objects (balls or pieces of felt or paper).

Clicking on the following pictures will take you to Amazon.  These are affiliate links.  Thank you.

 

Happy Halloween!!!


Be sure to “like” and follow my my Facebook page for all the latest play ideas and information regarding my play classes and parent workshops!

Also, once Halloween is over… you might start thinking about Christmas shopping!!!  Be sure to check out Best toys and gifts: a speech therapist’s list!

Talking… at the Playground!

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?”  IMG_20171022_151702If 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.IMG_20171022_151719

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, IMG_20171022_125348 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:

After the rain…PUDDLES!

Playing…outside!

The Passionate Pointer

Want indoor ideas?  I’ve got those too!

Playing with…BOOKS!

Playing with… PLAYDOUGH!

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


Be sure to “like” and follow my Facebook page for all the latest information on my play and language learning classes, parent workshops, and play ideas!

 

 

 

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