May 2, 2013

news-develop-language-skills-fun-activities-05-2013In celebration of May being Better Speech and Hearing Month, we want to help parents find fun, creative ways to strengthen their children’s speech and language development.

And one of the best ways to do this is to play!

Playtime is integral in a child’s development of language skills. As therapists, part of our job is to guide a child’s development through play activities and to teach parents to do the same.

As an ode to summer – and to Better Speech and Hearing Month – here is a list of five summer activities that will help parents focus on language development while playing with their little ones!

1. Plastic bugs: Found at your local big-box retailer for about $3, these little creatures are a great, inexpensive toy that can strengthen language development! Here’s how:

  • Talk about each bug individually and its different body parts (legs, wing, body).
  • Discuss how the bugs are similar and different. What colors are they? How many legs or spots do they each have?
  • Hide the bugs in the yard or house, and work on following directions and using prepositions – “the bug is on the chair” or “under the table”

2. Nature walk: Whether at your local park or in your own backyard, now’s the perfect time to get outside. While you are there, take the time to talk about what you are seeing:

  • The colors of the flowers, bugs and plants
  • Relationships and actions (what grows, flies, makes sounds)
  • The size of items (big flowers, little flowers, tall trees, short trees)
  • Other kids on the playground (who is running, sliding, throwing, swinging). This is a great activity to practice verbs!

3. Water play: Enjoy a hot day with water play! Fill up a small pool or even a bucket with water. You can use cups, big spoons and strainers while discussing the different steps throughout the activity:

  • Talk about actions (splash, pour, fill, dump, scoop)
  • Label items (boats, spoons, cups)
  • Talk about body parts (splash with your hands, splash with your feet, do little splashes with your fingers)

4. Follow the Leader/Simon Says: Both activities are great for toddlers and school-age children. Use Follow the Leader to work on identifying body parts and actions, as well as following directions. Younger children can participate by following visual instructions.

  • Make sure you talk about what you’re doing and label, label, label! (“Shake your hands, shake, shake, shake” and “Stomp your feet, stomp, stomp, stomp”)
  • Work on opposites (up/down, stop/go, loud/soft, high/low)
  • Make instructions harder if the children are older (have them follow two or three directions at a time)
  • Take turns being the leader and being “Simon.” But most of all, have fun!

5. Sidewalk chalk: This is a great activity for children of all ages. Older children can use sidewalk chalk to draw pictures and discuss what they are doing:

  • Have them tell you about the picture they drew.
  • Can they make up a story about their artwork or draw a picture to match a favorite story?
  • Ask them to draw items in specific places (draw a butterfly above a tree, draw a blue fish under a bridge). They can use this activity to learn about following multi-step directions as well as prepositions.
  • Ask your toddler to find items in an older sibling’s pictures.
  • Use chalk to make a road for cars, and talk about driving the car on the road, parking the car, and going over a bridge.

The above list includes just a few of the speech development activities you and your child can do together while also having fun! Plus, helping your child learn language skills through play does not have to be expensive or time consuming.

What are you waiting for? It’s time to play!

~ Mollie Elliott, MS, CCC-SLP
Speech Therapy Supervisor — Addison, TX