Bath time is a favorite routine in our house. The kids will race to the tub and beg to stay in “just one more minute.” Since bath time occurs so often and is usually fun for little ones, it is also a great place to encourage speech and language skills. Here are five simple ways you can encourage speech and language skills while bathing your little ones.
Asking for more
“More” is one of my favorite words to teach kids because it can be used for so many different activities. Bath time is no exception. Your kids can request more bubbles, more toys, more singing, more stories, more tickles etc. The possibilities are endless. I like to put in just a small amount of bubbles in a low filled tub. This usually gets my kids to request more bubbles and more water. I will also begin singing a song and then stop and wait for them to request more. I may start tickling them, only to stop and wait for them to request more from me. I also give just a toy or two and then have a bucket of bath toys beside me. This encourages them to ask for more. I still only give them a couple at a time so they can continue to ask for more throughout our bath routine. If you see your little one indicating they want more bubbles, toys, water, singing etc, but they aren’t verbally requesting, model the word for them and give them plenty of time to imitate you. If they do not imitate verbally, model the sign for “more” and give them the opportunity to try the sign as well. You may need to use hand over hand assistance to help them use the sign if they are new to signing and verbal language. Make sure to give them lots of opportunities to use the sign for more throughout bath time. Practice and opportunity are your best tools for encouraging verbal language.
Descriptive words and opposites
Bath time is great for teaching various descriptive words. Many of these words apply to teaching opposites as well. Your little ones can learn many different descriptive words including cold, hot, warm, wet, dry, clean, dirty, full and empty. Talk to your kids about the description of the bath. “The water feels cold, lets add more hot water.” "You are wet now, but when we use the towel you will be dry." "Your feet were dirty, but now they are clean.” The more they are exposed to these words and are able to visualize and experience them, the more likely they will be to understand the meaning of the words. The word cold will have a much greater meaning to them if they are feeling cold water, rather than simply hearing the word. You can assess your child’s understanding of opposites and descriptive words using what speech therapists call cloze sentences. This is when certain words are left out of a sentence and your child is given the opportunity to fill in the blank. For example, “The tub was empty before but now it is ______.” or “You were wet in the water, but now you are ______.” If they don’t fill in the blank after you’ve given them plenty of wait time, you can fill it in for them.
Spatial relationships/positional words
Bath time play takes many forms. Your kids may play with sea animals, toy boats, foam letters, bubbles or fill and spill cups. As your child is playing, be sure to use positional words such as on top, under, beside, in front, and behind. You could say, “Your whale is under the water.” or “The boat is behind you.” As with descriptive words, the exposure to positional words and spatial language will be more meaningful to your child through experiences. If they can see and move the whale under the water, the word under carries more meaning than if he just simply heard the word. Remember, children usually need to understand a word before using it verbally.
Narrate their play
I’m not much of a sports enthusiast, but we have ESPN on at my house ALL the time. My husband is the sports lover in the family, but I do occasionally throw him a bone and watch with him. I mostly hear commentators describing exactly what they see players doing. “ Lebron is running to the basket. He shoots and scores 3 points.” Think of yourself as a play commentator. Narrate what you see. “You are pushing your boat.” “Your whale is swimming.” “You are making a big splash.” “I’m adding more bubbles.” I can’t say this enough: The more they hear and experience language, the more likely they will be to use it themselves. You may feel silly being a play commentator, but your child will be exposed to wonderful and rich language modeling.
Teach Body Parts
During all the bath play, there’s also one main aspect of bath time: washing. This is the perfect opportunity to teach and discuss body parts. “I’m washing your toes and now your legs.” You can also involve them in the process. You can ask them to show you the body part you need to wash. “Lift up your arm so I can wash it.” If they give you their arm, you know they understand where their arm is. If they give you their leg instead, simply say, “That’s your leg, here’s your arm.” You can also ask them to wash something themselves. Hand them a washcloth and ask them to wash their face or wash their stomach. If they are able to follow your commands, you will know they have a good understanding of body parts. You can use hand over hand assistance to help them wash the correct body parts if they are not yet able to locate them independently. Name their body parts throughout the bath and encourage them to imitate you.
I hope you have found these tips helpful and are able to add them into your child’s bath time routine. It’s time to get out your rubber duck and create a fun environment for language learning in the bath. Let us know which tips work best for your family and make sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram @toddlers.talking for more helpful tips each week.