Summer Language Activities !
The summer season provides many rich opportunities for learning through play. If you want to provide your preschooler with activities that elicit more sophisticated language – yet appear to be just good plain fun – try some of the suggestions below!
Engaging in pretend play is critical at this stage of language development. Because language is a system of symbols, symbolic play helps children gain higher level language skills. There are many ways to get in character and enter into a CHILD DIRECTED dialogue. You must let the child initiate the play and have your character respond to your child’s character. If the adult directs the play, a different neural process is involved, and the child is not learning how to ideate and initiate.
Run a pretend lemonade stand.
Run a pretend lemonade stand with a toy cash resister, money, cups, a pitcher and Little People characters.
Play at the beach.
If you go to the beach, create a pretend beach scene at home in the sandbox and pretend to run away from crabs, fly kites, eat ice cream, etc. Make the pretend scenario match the real scenario and let your child do the talking and pretending.
Create a zoo.
Use stuffed animals to create a “zoo” in the backyard. You can also include a Dr. kit and tend to the sick animals in the zoo.
Have a pretend car wash.
Pretend to have a car wash in the back yard by squirting shaving cream on toy cars, washing them, and then hosing them off.
Set up a pretend ice cream store.
Set up a pretend ice cream store.
Auditory comprehension is the ability to make meaning out of spoken language. Children need to be able to filter out background noise, focus on the speaker, interpret linguistic concepts (e.g. concepts of time and space), and follow multistep directions.
Make a milkshake.
Make a milkshake using a three-step sequence. First have your child try to name all the necessary ingredients. Then use the words “first”, “next” and “last” as you assemble the milkshake (e.g. “First we pour in the ingredients. Next we push the button to blend it. Last, we drink it!”). At the end of the activity, ask your child to recall the ingredients and then ask “How did we make it?”
Play Cranium Hullaballoo.
This is a great game for following multi-step directions. You can make your own by finding pictures in magazines of food, clothes, and animals. Then have the child run/jump/fly/crawl, etc. to a food – or someone wearing green stripes, etc. You can work on categories, part/whole relationships (e.g. “Crawl to something that has a tail.”), and adjectives.
Find creatures in the sea.
Fill a bucket with water and a variety of sea creature toys. The listener must find the item described, but not named (e.g. “Find something with a fin, that is extremely fat, eats fish, and starts with the /w/ sound.”). Take turns being the “teacher” and the listener.
Work on spatial concepts.
Work on spatial concepts using the toys you already own. Fill gift bags with small toys and hide them around the room. Take turns telling each other what to get (e.g. “Get the bag behind the couch and the bag under the table and open them up.”)
Play contextually based memory games.
For instance, at the pool say – “oh look – her toy fish is swimming – these are some things that swim – fish – dolphin – shark – whale – kids on the swim team.” Then repeat the list. Next ask your child to name the five items. Later in the day you can check her auditory memory by seeing if she can remember the things that swim.
There is a significant range of “normal” for expressive language skills during the preschool years. In general, the preschooler needs to be intelligible, able to express his wants and needs, and able to negotiate increasingly complex social situations.
Strengthen oral-motor skills.
Oral-motor activities that facilitate increased strength and endurance in the articulators include sustained blowing and sucking. You can try blo-pens, whistles, and sucking thick textures through straws such as applesauce and milkshakes.
Have fun with motor planning.
Some children also need help feeling where the food is in their mouths, and developing a motor plan that allows them to move their tongues in a functional way. You can work on motor planning and tongue lateralization by eating chewy foods (e.g. gummy bears, chewy vitamins, Swedish fish). When the food gets stuck in their teeth on the sides of their mouths they are forced to move their tongues from side to side to get it out. You can also put icing or ice cubes around their lips and ask them to lick it off.
Be clever about initiating communication.
During your child’s favorite game – stop midgame, and do not say a thing. Just look at your child expectantly until they tell you what to do. You are working on having your child initiate telling a communication partner what they want.
Make the most of story telling.
Story retelling is an excellent way to work on longer utterances, sequential thinking and cause and effect. Read a favorite story and have your child tell the story back to you after you read it. You can also work on inferences while reading (e.g. “Why did Goldilocks run away when the bears came home? What would you do?”). Mo Willems has a series of books which are excellent for reading social cues. For instance, in his book, There is a bird on your head, there are simple illustrations of a pig and an elephant with transparent facial expressions. Ask leading questions such as “If his forehead is wrinkled, and his mouth is turned down, do you think he’s happy or mad?”.
Have your child read you a story from the “story bag”.
Create a “story bag” by placing random toys in a gift bag. Have your child pick out 3 toys (with her eyes closed) and then ask her to tell you a story about them.
These are some of my favorite activities that have been tried and true over the years and I hope you have fun with them. If you or your child stop having fun – you should stop the activity. Children should be joyful and engaged for optimal learning. If you want more ideas or think your child needs 1:1 speech therapy, feel free to call us at (703) 243-4600.
Have a happy Summer!