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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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speech at home

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:


If you would like to print out FREE handouts of some of the more popular posts I’ve written for early speech and language learning check out: FREE Handouts

Other posts you may be interested in:

Where’s the speech in speech therapy?

Playing with…BOOKS!

Top 5 NON-toy Toys

Toys That Do Nothing

 

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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.

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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!


Be sure to “like” my Facebook page so you get all my latest posts and information for speech and language development!

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!

 

 

 

Magical Moments

A pointed finger.  Such a powerful and meaningful form of communication.  In this photo, he has just created an amazing opportunity for an adult to say something…anything…about whatever has caught his interest.  What will have the most impact?  How should we respond?  This is a magical moment.

Learning to talk is a process.  Some children pick it up fairly quickly and seemingly without much effort.  Many others have at least some frustration about learning to communicate and the question of time is a concern of parents.  How much time should be spent working on speech and language skills?  How much time should parents spend playing with their little ones?  How long is this going to take?  I often respond with this:

It’s not the minutes, it’s the moments.

As a speech therapist in a clinical setting I typically spent 30 minutes weekly with a child.  With the little ones, especially, 30 minutes of therapy rarely meant 30 minutes of a child demonstrating their best communication skills.  In that time there would be moments of greatness.  Those were the moments I would capitalize on their efforts.  Sometimes I would get lots of these moments in a session; other days we’d be happy with one.  I get that children often have different agendas.  This is why the magical moments are so important and why we have to be ready to respond whenever these moments happen.

In the photo above, a common response might be:

  • What do you see?
  • What’s that?
  • What color is that?
  • What do you want?
  • Who’s up there?

If that’s our response, we may have just missed our opportunity.  The toddler needs a word and we just asked a question.

The toddler who is learning to talk needs lots and lots of repetition.  They need to hear words many, many times.  Questions don’t give them the words they want to say.  Questions ask them to recall words they may not remember in that moment or require them to say words they have never said before.  Questions may feel like we are testing them.  No one likes pop quizzes.

Instead, follow their eye gaze.  Name their interest.  Give them simple words, sounds, or phrases to describe their interest or request.  Use their words.  In the picture above we could’ve said “hi” to the person at the top of the slide or named the person for him.  He was pointing to the next person but he didn’t know his name.  Rather than say “wait your turn” or “move away and let him come down” or “who’s that”… just say “hi, Luke”.  Your toddler will thank you, possibly by attempting to repeat you.

To take advantage of these magical moments think about reasons for communication.  Your toddler might want to:

  • request something (use object name or “more” or “help”)
  • protest something (“no”, “stop”, “don’t”)
  • ask something (“where”)
  • show emotion (“tada!” “yea!” “hooray!” “uh-oh!” “oh no!”
  • give a command (“go”, “mine”)

If you use the right word at the right time, there is a much better chance that your toddler will repeat it or at least attempt to say it.  You’ll know you guessed correctly because they might smile at you or point at it again or even tell you “yes”.

Here’s an example of a magical moment:

Toddler attempts to open the door to the backyard and whines or otherwise makes noise while looking at you.  Parent tries a few questions/ words before finally hitting on the right word.  When you say what the toddler wants to say, that’s the magic:

  • Parent: “do you want help?”
  • Toddler grunts
  • Parent:  “open the door?”
  • More grunting, louder now
  • Parent: “open?  say open”
  • On the verge of a major meltdown
  • Parent:  “outside?”
  • Toddler calms, smiles, and jumps up and down, says “ow hi”

Toddler desperately trying to close a door that is difficult to push but then achieves his goal!

  • Parent: “push!”
  • Toddler grunts and pushes
  • Parent: “puuuuuussssshhhhh”
  • Toddler grunts some more then gets the door closed
  • Parent: “TADA!”
  • Toddler turns, puts hands in the air “tada!”

Sometimes we just have to give them the right words.

Look for some of these potentially magical moments in your day:

  • Toddler playing with older sibling and reaches for a toy that sister is holding
  • Toddler attempting to open a closed container with his favorite snack inside
  • Toddler pointing to a toy that is out of his reach
  • Toddler giggles after watching you do something funny
  • Toddler makes excited sounds after watching a car go by

For a FREE, printable (condensed) version of this post, go to: FREE Handouts you can print out


For more ideas about encouraging speech at home check out:

Where are the WORDS?

For play ideas using toys to encourage talking at home check out:

Playing with…BOOKS!

Playing with…pop toobs

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


Be sure to “like” and follow my Facebook page for all the latest information regarding my play classes, parent workshops, and in-home play sessions.  Send me a message with any questions.

 

 

 

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