by Tracy Heupel, SLP
Have you ever wondered how you can enhance your child’s speech and language skills at home? As a Speech-Language Pathologist to preschoolers, this is a question that I am often asked by the families I work with. Believe it or not, there are many skills you can work on throughout your child’s everyday routine. Here are some everyday learning moments you can incorporate Into your child’s daily schedule.
1. Bath Time
Bath time is a great opportunity to work on early communication skills. Children love their bath toys, and some great ones are plastic toy animals. You can work on counting (how many animals you have, how many legs or spots the animal has, etc.) and practice naming the animals as well as making their corresponding sound. Throw in some toy cups with your animals and you can work on prepositions (in, out, on, under, etc.). Examples of prepositions include, “the cow is in the water” or “the pig is under the cup.” Another perfect bath time activity is identifying and naming body parts.
2. Cleaning Up
My number one tip when it comes to cleaning up is singing the clean up song. It works like magic! Singing the clean up song helps children recognize teamwork, responsibility, and rules. You can also use the clean up song when picking up around the house or having your child help you wash and dry dishes. It does not have to be used just for toys! Also, cleaning up is the perfect time to practice following directions. You can make the directions as simple or complex as you like. This can work for putting toys in a basket or make it more challenging by adding descriptors to the directions. A few examples of this are, “put the book on the bottom shelf,” “put the blue ball in the basket,” and “pick up all the yellow toys.” You can practice multi-step directions, but if your child is having difficulty following them, simplify and give a clue by pointing to the toy or where to put it. Another activity – as your child cleans up, target categories by sorting the toys by color, similar objects, etc.
3. Grocery Shopping
Begin by talking about the items on your list and what you are looking for next. Increase your child’s phrase length by describing the different items in the store, such as yellow bananas, big watermelon, cold milk. This is also a good opportunity to focus on your child’s sense of smell, sight, feel, and hearing. Grocery stores items are a great opportunity to compare and contrast similar items as well. For example, bananas and apples are fruit and can be peeled, but they are different colors and one has seeds. You can also help your child practice math vocabulary by counting the numbers of aisles and check out lanes, or labeling the numbers on the aisle signs. If you can’t make the trip out to the store, create a grocery at-home.
4. Walking Outside
Walking outside is the perfect opportunity to work on helping your child enhance their senses. My favorite walking activity is practicing “I see” statements. These statements can help your child lengthen their phrase length as well as focus on their surroundings. While walking, encourage your child to look for animals, talk about the color of the sky, or even make predictions about the weather. Another sense to focus on while walking is hearing. Focus on listening for noises, such as dogs barking, or cars driving by. Of course, we cannot forget about our sense of feel! Talk about the temperature outside and how the weather makes your child feel or pick up and describe objects like a pine cone, leaf or flower. As you can see, a nice walk can be a great way to assist your child in learning about their senses.
Books play an important role in your child’s development. I recommend reading with your child daily, and it’s never too early to start! When choosing a book, hand the book to your child upside down. This is a great way to test your child’s problem solving skill to see if they can hold the book correctly. Interactive books are great for practicing turn-taking skills. Show your child the pictures in the story and talk about them. As you read the story, ask questions about the content. To assist your child in answering these questions, you can point to the answer/picture on the page. If your book has many repeated phrases, begin to leave off the last word or couple of words and let your child fill in the rest. After you finish the story, review the story events, and talk about what happened at the beginning, middle, and end of the book.
The above examples are just a few ways to incorporate speech and language skills into your child’s everyday routine. These strategies will encourage your child to explore their surroundings and learn new information. As always, remember to make each learning opportunity fun and engaging.
LLA Therapy, with locations in Hudson, Fairlawn, Medina and recently opened Mentor, is offering FREE virtual screenings for kids for speech, occupational, and physical therapy for the month of January. For more information, visit llatherapy.org.