Fall Language Activities !

The fall 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!

leaf Pretend Play

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.

Reenact apple picking.
If you go apple picking with your child, re-enact the activity with pretend apples on a tree. If you have any type of large plants or trees in your house, you can cut out paper apples and place them on the tree. While picking the pretend apples, you may blindfold each other and play a game of hot and cold to make it more challenging. When your child is close to the apple, say, “You are hot, you are getting closer.” As they move away from the apple, say “You are cold, take two steps forward.”, etc.

Pretend to go trick-or-treating.
Dress up in costumes around the house and pretend to go trick-or-treating from room. This is a great way to role play what people might say when they open the door and how the children might react after receiving “candy”. If your child is sensitive to input around his face, you may apply face make up to each other as a fun way of working on desensitization.

Make characters out of leaves.
After reading the story Leaf Man, by Lois Ehlert, go outside and collect a variety of leaves. Once inside, make your leaves into different characters, animals, etc. and tell a story with dialogue as if those shapes are real creatures.

Play charades.
Download pictures of animals you might see in the Fall from your computer and print them out to use as game cards. When it is your turn, pick a card and act it out only using your body. This is a great game for improving the ideation involved in motor planning. The children have to come up with the “idea” for how to make their bodies move like a certain animal. This is a different type of learning than imitation or rote learning and is critical for functional development.

leaf Auditory Comprehension

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 pie.
Work on the temporal concepts, “before” and “after” while cooking. If making a pie, you may involve your child and ask what the pie looks like before it goes in the oven. Use as many describing words as possible. After it comes out, ask your child how it looks differrent (or how it looks the same).

Read “The Little Old Lady Who Wasn’t Afraid of Anything”.
Read The Little Old Lady Who Wasn’t Afraid of Anything, by Linda Williams. If your child is literal or working on reading body language, this book can be helpful. Although the lady says she isn’t afraid, her face looks scared and she begins running. On each page, practice reading the character’s facial cues and talk about why she is feeling the way she is. You can also point out that her words don’t match her actions or her facial expressions. Talk about why a character may be dishonest. This can develop Theory of Mind which is critical for creating and understanding narratives in the later years. Theory of Mind refers to a child’s ability to understand that a character may have a different perspective than his own.

Play Hyper-dash.
Play Hyper-dash on the microdash setting. This game gives a series of directions meant to improve auditory memory and working memory.

Sort foods to develop analytical thinking.
Sort foods into categories such as fruit, desserts, breads, proteins, etc. This can be fun to do with real food after a big shopping trip to prepare for Thanksgiving – or with pretend foods. You can also sort Halloween candy according do different attribues after trick-or-treating (i.e. color, sweet vs. sour, big vs. small). By sorting the same items in different ways, you are helping children develop both analytical thinking (how are things the same and different?) and flexible thinking.

leaf Expressive Language

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.

Use nature to build cognition and expressiveness.
Go on a nature walk and collect fall items in a bag. Use descriptive language as you feel the item and explore it before putting it in the bag. Once home, you can take white moon dough (or home made clay) and spread it out in a pie pan. Have your child close his eyes and reach into the bag. Ask him to describe the thing he is feeling using his sense of touch only (not sight). Once the item is described, he can take it out and make a design in the clay.

Use books to build articulation.
Read Going On A Bear Hunt, by Helen Oxenbury, or I know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie, by Judy Schachner. Both of these books have rhythm and repetition. If your child has clear articulation for single words, but difficulty with multi-word phrases, reading repetitive, rhyming books can provide the support they need by activating the right hemisphere.

Use pumpkins to work on sequencing.
Carve a pumpkin and break the activity up into clear 3-5 step sequences. If your child is visual you may take parts of potato head and provide them as visual cues. For instance line up the eyes first, and say “First we do the eyes”. Then lay out the nose and last the mouth. After the pumpkin is carved, go over the steps using the visual cues. Later in the day, see if your child can relate how they carved a pumpkin without the visual cues.

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 wonderful fall season! And, as always… be safe.