Most families have these 3 things laying around the house: books,balls and bubbles. They also happen to be great for encouraging speech and language skills. So dust off your summertime bubbles and continue reading for some of our favorite ways to facilitate speech and language using these activities.
Books are one of my favorite tools to use when targeting speech and language skills. They are wonderful for developing expressive and receptive vocabulary, teaching basic concepts and beginning early literacy skills. Here are a few tips you can use to help facilitate speech and language skills while you are reading to your child:
-Ask them to point to a familiar item on the page. You can ask, “Where’s the dog?” or “Can you find the banana?” Asking your child to find items on the page develops their receptive vocabulary and teaches them to follow simple commands.
-Ask them to name items. Point to something on the page and ask them what it is. This develops their expressive vocabulary skills. If they don’t know, model the word for them and ask them to repeat. If they learned a new word, go back to it at the end of the book and ask them what it is again. Repetition and exposure are essential to learning new vocabulary words.
-Teach basic concepts by showing your child in a book. For example, if you are teaching your child colors or sizes (big, little, giant) you could show them a big fish and then ask them to find another big fish or ask them to touch all of the green things on the page. You can also teach other basic concepts such as opposites, colors, counting and categorizing using pictures in books. Some examples of this would be, “Here’s a big dog. Can you find the small dog? They are opposites.” or “Let's count all the butterflies together.”
-Reading books to your child introduces the concept of sequencing. This is so important for a variety of skills such as problem solving, following directions and storytelling. Read a story with your child and talk about what happens throughout the book. Then retell the story using words such as first, next and last to teach how to sequence events in order. For example you could say, “First the family drove to the beach. Next they swam in the ocean. The last thing they did was build a sandcastle before they drove home.”
Most people think of playing ball with their child as a physical activity, but you can also incorporate some great speech goals while rolling or throwing a ball back and forth.
Here are some of my favorite ways to use a ball to develop speech and language skills:
-Ball play teaches turn taking skills. This is essential for social language, but it also sets up the foundation for verbal language. Communication is reciprocal. We take turns when we speak and turn taking, even with a nonverbal activity, develops this skill and teaches children how to take turns with physical activities and speech. You can also model the sign and the words “my turn” each time you throw or roll the ball to keep enforcing verbal language.
-Ball play is wonderful for teaching verbs. There are so many great verbs you can model when playing with a ball: kick, throw, hit, roll, toss. Make sure to model the word with the action. For example, say “Kick” as you are kicking the ball. This teaches children that actions have words that represent them.
-Ball play is also great for teaching positional words. Your little one can learn important spatial relationships such as: on top, under, beside, between, on, off, behind etc. Make it a game and ask them to put the ball in various positions. You could say, “Put the ball under the table.” or “Is the ball beside or behind the slide?” Children learn well through experience and movement, so be sure to get them involved when trying to teach a new concept.
I know some of you are about to stop reading as we get to bubbles, but I would encourage you to continue on. I get why bubbles are annoying to most parents. They are sticky, always spill and you have to blow them a million times. As irritating as they can be for us, they are a great tool for your speech and language toolbox. Here’s a couple reasons why speech therapists like using them:
-Bubbles are a great way to get your child to request more. Kids love bubbles. I mean, they really love them.
It’s because of this love that they are very motivated to request that you blow them approximately 500 times in 20 minutes. This gives you many opportunities to make them request "more". Blow a few bubbles and then wait for your child to indicate that they want more through verbal language or a sign. If they are indicating that they want you to blow more bubbles either through gestures or vocalizing or screaming, ask them if they want more and model the sign. If they do not respond verbally or with a sign, take their hands and use hand over hand assistance to help them produce the sign. Then blow more bubbles and wait for them to request more again. Keep repeating this process and use hand over hand assistance for “more” until they use the sign independently or if they use a verbal request. I’ve had many clients use their first word or sign during a bubbles activity due to the extreme bubble love and the numerous opportunities they were given to request.
- Bubbles provide auditory bombardment of various early sounds with words such as “Bubbles”, “More” and “Pop”. B, M and P are some of the earliest consonant sounds that children can produce. Playing with bubbles and repeating these words over and over exposes children to those early sounds and gives them the opportunity to imitate sounds and words that would be easiest for them to produce. They will be much more likely to imitate words with B, M, and P in them because they are bilabial sounds (sounds made with both lips) and they can watch how they are being produced. So be sure to model those words as much as possible and give your little ones plenty of chances to imitate you.
Hopefully, these suggestions have helped you think about how you engage with your child during these activities. Sometimes as parents we try too hard to create special scenarios to help our children learn, but play is their primary language. You can make your everyday play, with items you already have at home, into wonderful opportunities for speech and language development.