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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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toddler activities

Help your toddler say “Thank You”

Helping children learn to be polite is very important to many parents.  Words like “thank you” and “please” may often be just as important as helping little ones say names of objects and actions.  The concept of “please” is usually fairly simple to understand and parents are happy to fulfill their little one’s requests as long as that word is attempted or added.  The concept of “thank you” can be harder to grasp as it is something we expect toddlers to say AFTER we have already given them that highly desired item.

teach toddlers to say thank you
PIN this… Helping Little Ones Learn to Say Thank You

One especially helpful aspect of Thanksgiving is that it comes right after Halloween which means many toddlers have been recently motivated by candy to say “thank you” -many times!  If they haven’t actually said “thank you” they’ve at least seen people receiving candy and heard others say “thank you” so little ones have learned the importance of saying these words.

This leads me to the first, and most important, way to teach little ones: SHOW THEM by doing it yourself!  When your little one hands you an object, say “thank you”.  When they give you a hug, say “thank you”.  When they help clean up, say “thank you”.  Look for opportunities to thank them throughout each day.

The specific speech requirements for producing “thank you” accurately are fairly advanced so expect that your little one’s first attempts may sound something like:  “tay oo” or “dank you” or “kak you”.  Don’t worry so much about the “th” sound… that will come later.

sign_language_thank_you
http://www.babysignlanguage.com

Enlisting the help of older siblings is also a fantastic way to teach any word or concept!  Encourage the older sibling to say THANK YOU clearly when giving out any toys, foods, or objects to all children present.

Before your child is talking, signing can be a great way to communicate “thank you”.  Teach your little one to thank others with a gesture (of course smiles and hugs are also great ways to show thanks!)  For a video clip, go to:

VIDEO baby sign “thank you”

One of my favorite ways to teach almost any word is through songs!  Yes, there are lots of videos for kids online with songs but the ones YOU sing and encourage your child to sing with you…in the car, on a walk, in the checkout line of a store, etc…have more of an impact as they are more interactive!  Slow the down song to help elongate those vowel sounds, sing it loudly to place emphasis or show excitement, sing quietly to increase attention, or insert the child’s name to make it personal.  Take any tune you know and change the words to use “thank you” repeatedly!

If you have “Baby Shark” on repeat in your head, just change the words:

“Thank you, mom… doo doo doo doo doo doo” (etc. etc. etc)

Change the “Happy Birthday” song:

“I like to say Thank YOU… I like to say Thank YOU… When I help out my mommy… She likes to say Thank YOU”

For more song suggestions and a printable version of this blog post, go to:  FREE Handouts you can print out

Want to teach “thank you” in play?  Use any toy that has pieces or parts and each time your child hands you a puzzle piece, potato head part, or block for stacking; respond with nothing else but “thank you”.  Repeat.  Always repeat!

(This post contains Amazon affiliate links which means I may potentially earn a small fee based on qualifying sales.)

Here are some toy ideas:

And yes, another opportunity to practice Thank You is quickly approaching… Christmas!  If you are looking for gift ideas be sure to check out: Toys That Do NothingTop 5 NON-toy Toys, and Best toys and gifts: a speech therapist’s list!

Make sure you like and follow my Facebook page so you don’t miss any of my speech and language tips and play ideas.

“Thank you” for reading and sharing.  I appreciate it! 😊  Thank YOU!  Thank YOU!

 

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Traveling with kids: the speech and language way

Road trips and plane rides… with little ones.  It’s a whole new world of travel.  Remember being a child and not having electronics when going on vacation?  What did we do…?

We played car games:  The Alphabet Game, The License Plate Game, I Spy, Auto Bingo, Rhyme Time…and a word spelling game called “ghost” – that I’m not sure if my Grandma made up.

What else?  We sang songs, we created stories out of what the clouds looked like, we ate snacks, we read books, we pretended our siblings were robots and positioned their arms and legs in awkward poses, we got on each other’s nerves, we asked “are we there yet?”… but we TALKED to each other.

Now, I’m no expert on parenting or traveling with little ones but I do know that a travel bag for little ones doesn’t need to require batteries or recharging – especially if the trip isn’t too long.  So, what do you put in a travel bag to help pass the travel time?  This, of course, depends on the ages of your children but here are some non-electronic travel bag ideas: 20180401_131550.jpg

(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.)

When my kids were younger, the travel bag was mostly books, snacks, magnetic doodle boards, a few toy cars and stuffed animals.  One of my favorite stuffed animals was the turtle with a bunch of buckles on it!  This was great on the airplane (not as much in a car) as it did require frequent help to unlatch the buckles.  More opportunities to ask for help = more opportunities to practice communication.

Dropping the toys with no way to retrieve them while driving was definitely an issue so we did LOTS and LOTS of music – music, not videos.  Keeping the playlist familiar but with a few new songs helped tremendously.

Now that my kids can do activities with less adult help, stickers are a huge favorite!  We go through SHEETS and SHEETS of stickers on trips.  Alphabet stickers are great!  I write a list of their favorite words and they cover up the letters with the matching letter sticker.  They will use the letter sticker to write out their names, things they see outside, the first letter of whatever word I call out… or just put the whole alphabet on the piece of paper.  Reusable stickers scenes are great too.

Folders with activities such as mazes, connect the dots, and scavenger hunt type activities (I just printed out a grid of cars and trucks then colored them red, blue, black, gray, green, etc to make car bingo a little easier and not require such a long attention span when you JUST can’t find that railroad crossing sign that is in so many pre-made auto bingo cards – ha!)  One side of my folder has activities for my older son and the other side has mostly blank paper for my younger daughter.

It’s not all about coloring and books.  Remember to sing lots of songs!  Play those interactive car games from your childhood, and of course, snack away as needed.  Those are all great opportunities to practice sounds and words!  Think about how many opportunities there are to point out passing cars or airplanes overhead, request help, request more, request pit stops, request a break, request food and activities and objects… Remember to offer choices to help with speech and also reduce frustration.  When you arrive at your destination “Hooray!”

Here is a visual list of ideas (although your local Dollar Store is also a great option):
    

 

Traveling with little ones isn’t easy, I get it, but it can also be an opportunity to teach them how to travel and not just how to survive it.  Lots of concepts to think about with traveling – independent play, imagination, maps/directions, the concept of “one minute”, and patience.  Yes, lots of patience!

What’s in your travel bag?

Thank you for reading and sharing!  I’d love to hear what works for you.


Other articles you may be interested in:

Toddler Speech: unraveling the mystery

Playing with…BOOKS!

Where are the WORDS?

 

 

 

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

 


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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!


Be sure to like and follow me on Facebook so you don’t miss any of my play and language learning tips!

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 next year.  Oh, maybe that’s just mine.

Happy NEW YEAR, 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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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!


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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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