Using your imagination is a great way to build play skills!

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Using your imagination is a great way to build play skills! One activity that requires little to no supplies is music and singing. Music teaches children new vocabulary, modeling of phrases, sentence structure and it also exposes them to rhyming and alliteration – which are pre-skills to literacy. The repetition in songs increase learning! Music and singing stimulate multiple areas of the brain, which is great for language building as your child develops.

Be sure to include movement or gestures within the songs. This is easily put together into your everyday routine. For example, if your going to the kitchen to get a snack, you can both hop to the fridge while plugging your actions into the tune of a song that already exists. For example, “Hi ho hi ho, it’s off to the fridge we go…..”

  • Examples to include movement into songs include:
    • Row Row Row Your Boat
      • Sit across from your child and join hands, then rock back and forth as you sing the song.
    • Itsy Bitsy Spider
      • Make a pretend spider with your hands crawling up a drain pipe, the rain falling down or the sun shining as you sing along.
    • Old MacDonald Had a Farm
      • Be sure to encourage imitation of animal noises.
    • The Wheels on the Bus
    • Add gestures such as hand movements going up/down, opening and closing the palms of your hands and moving your hands left/right to imitate windshield wipers.

Use shorter songs with familiar words. Emphasize the important words. For example “Twinkle, twinkle, little….STAR”.

Always try to encourage turn taking when singing! It’s helpful for children to learn that they need to take turns while communicating, as well as when they are playing with toys. Once your child has heard a song and learned the words, pause at a familiar part so they are prompted to finish a line of the song or rhyme!

Featured Learning Toy: Baking Set

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Melissa & Doug Wooden Slice and Bake Cookie Set

This play set lets children ages three and up pretend to bake, decorate, and serve cookies – all while practicing fine motor skills, learning number concepts, and more. Perfect for preschool-age children, this toy not only offers plenty of opportunity for imaginary play, but it also helps small kids exercise their motor skills. Children can play independently or it makes a great parent-and-child activity, too. Work on hand strengthening by pulling the velcro pieces apart, as well as direction following by ordering specific cookies from your child!

Ask an Expert: IFSP vs. IEP?

What is the difference between an IFSP and an IEP?

IFSP stands for Individualized Family Service Plan. An IFSP is created for children (birth to 3 years old) who qualify for an Early Intervention program.

IEP stands for Individualized Education Plan. An IEP is created for children (3-21 years) who qualify for special education services through their school system.

The main difference between an IFSP and an IEP is that an IFSP focuses on the services that the child and family need to help improve their child’s development. An IEP concentrates on the child’s educational needs. Both documents are created to ultimately to set in place individualized goals, objectives, and various services to support the child’s current needs.

DIY Mystery Monster

337e1b2e-3759-41c2-8d0c-d7a08a226f82-1You don’t need Halloween to do the Monster Mash! Try creating your own mystery monster with items you have at home. This activity requires 3 people, 1 piece of blank paper, and crayons/markers/colored pencils.

First, hold the paper vertically, fold the paper in thirds to make 3 creases, and then unfold. Next, write “head” in the top section, “body” in the middle section, and “feet” in the bottom section. The first person will take a turn creating the creature’s head. Once the head is completed, the paper will then be passed onto the next person who will complete the creature’s body. Finally, have the last person complete the feet. Make sure all of the body parts connect. When your mystery monster is completed, make up a story about what its’ name is, where it’s from, what it likes to eat, etc. You can also identify body parts and come up with what the monster might say. Feel free to add on other craft items to your monster (e.g. googly eyes; pom poms).

Ask an Expert: Add Therapy Tasks in Daily Routines

How do I implement therapy techniques during daily routines at home? It is hard to find time for one-on-one work, and there are so many suggestions. Where do I start?

It is definitely hard to find time to sit down one-on-one with your little one, especially with siblings and the various activities that fill their busy schedules. It is important to know that even if you are not spending as much one-on-one time with your kiddos as you’d like, that they are still gaining valuable input from each and every conversation you have with them! Implementing therapy techniques does not need to be limited to individual practice; while one-on-one time is beneficial, it is also important for your child to learn how to use language in everyday routines and when interacting with family and friends. You can easily implement techniques that support language development into tasks you already do every day:

Use self-talk to describe what you are doing while preparing snacks/lunch – “Cut apple, eat banana, drink milk.” Label items while on walks or in the grocery store to target vocabulary. Give your child options to encourage independent language use – “Do you want your boots or your shoes?” “Would you like water or milk?”

If you find yourself overwhelmed with the number of suggestions or goals established with your therapist, try to choose one or two to work on each day. Reserve one reoccurring routine for the morning or afternoon as your language practice time – that way you can be consistent with their practice without feeling like you need to constantly be in “therapist mode.”

Use your Imagination with Simple Household Items

Playing With Just Your Imagination

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Imaginative play is a key factor in cognitive development and play skills. And luckily, there are many fun ways for parents to work on this skill with random household items.

Collect a few child-safe and child-proof items in your house (nothing breakable!). Such items could be a straw, hair tie, tissue, etc. Then work with your child to create different ways that the item can be used. For instance, two straws might turn into bug antennae. A hair tie could become a queen’s ring. A ripped up tissue might act as falling snow. The possibilities are endless!

Does the item make a sound? Can it bend or does it have moving pieces? Where else might you find this item? Have fun and be creative! There are no wrong answers when it comes to using your imagination.

Incorporate Therapy Activities into Everyday Life!

There are many ways to incorporate therapy activities into everyday life; even with little or no supplies! There are a many benefits to embedding developmental strategies into your family’s daily routine. They include:

  1. Your child will feel involved and empowered to help with activities around the house.
  2. Your child will learn to use language not only during playtime, but during daily routines, as well.
  3. Allows your child to acquire and learn language in real life contexts. This increases generalization of language skills that are learned in therapy into everyday life.

Activity #1: Laundry

  • Sort laundry items into categories such as socks, shirts, hats, etc. Have your child imitate these words as you sort!
  • Ask your child to verbally identify items by function. For example “Show me something you wear on your feet!” if you are looking for your child to show you the socks. If your child needs support, offer choices! For example “Do you wear a sock or shirt on your feet?”
  • This helps your child increase awareness of their body parts and the function of each!
  • Make the activity silly by wearing the wrong item on your feet and have your child imitate “No!”.
  • Ask your child to verbally identify if the clothes are “cold” or “hot” coming out of the dryer! Make it silly by having your child imitate or exclaim “ouch!” as you pretend to ‘burn’ your finger on the hot clothes from the dryer!

Activity #2: Reading before bed

  • As you read a story to your child before bed, pause before turning the page and ask your child to point to the characters on the page.
  • Have your child imitate animal noises (“Moo!” or “Baa”) or car/train noises (“Beep Beep” or “Choo-Choo”) if they are found within the book. 

Activity #3: Morning Routines/Breakfast

  • Give choices on clothing items to wear. “Would you like to wear the red shirt or the blue shirt?” This helps increase independence as they learn to help dress themselves.
  • Ask your child to request what he or she needs from you to brush their teeth or comb their hair, etc. “What do we need to brush our teeth? We need ourtoothbrush! Your turn! Try toothbrush
  • Have your child make choices on what to drink at breakfast. “Would you like to drink milk or juice?”
  • Have your child imitate simple words or phrases related to breakfast. These could include “eat more”, “drink milk”, “yum”, or “juice”!
  • In addition, this helps your child work on gaining independence with feeding and using sippy cups.

Featured Learning Toy: Alphabet Nesting and Stacking Blocks

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Melissa & Doug Deluxe Alphabet Nesting and Stacking Blocks

These nesting blocks help young children work on early problem solving skills. They also grow with kids and provide countless opportunities for language development. You can take turns stacking them up to practice social skills, work on imitating early play sounds using the animals pictured on the sides, or use the largest cubes to sort like objects (all cars in one, all trains in another). You can even turn the boxes on their sides to create “garages” for a child’s transportation vehicles to build pretend play skills!

Ask an Expert: How can we motivate our child to speak?

How can we motivate our child to speak? He doesn’t seem to have any interest in imitating our words.

One way to increase motivation is to use toys and activities that your child is interested in, such as cars, trains, dolls or animals. Withholding and requesting high interest toys is a great way to encourage your child to use their words to get what he/she wants. To do this, withhold the desired item until your child attempts to vocalize the request for the activity or object!

Another tactic is playing with a toy that has lots of accessories or pieces. Then have your child verbally ask for each item they need to play with. If your child isn’t responding, model the correct word until your child understands that they are expected to imitate in order to receive the item you are withholding.

Featured Learning Toy: Farm & Animals

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Farm and Animals

This toy is great for eliciting imitation and spontaneous production of animal noises and other simple sounds, such as “mmm,” or other eating/drinking noises.  It is an excellent activity for facilitating pretend play, such as feeding the animals or having them run, jump, etc. It is also great for learning new simple vocabulary by labeling objects and animal body parts. This versatile toy is perfect for children ages 1-3, as you can appropriately adjust expectations for your child’s responses.