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.

Ask an Expert: My child is getting frustrated

I thought once he started speech therapy his language would explode immediately. Now my child is just acting more frustrated with his language skills.

Practice, practice, practice! Now that your child is being asked to use their language more often, they are more likely to get frustrated since you are making them work harder to get what they want. Now, instead of pointing and using gestures, your child is being required to vocalize and use more words. Continuing to model language for your child, providing choices in which he/she is required to use language, and encouraging your child to use their words to request items will all help promote continued language use. Repetition is key, and remember, building language skills takes time and practice!

Who needs toys when we have our own creativity?

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Imaginative play is crucial for both cognitive and language development, and the good news is that you can engage in pretend play with your child almost anywhere with little to no supplies! One activity that kids love is to play “grocery store” with food already in your home. Set up food around the room and give your child a bag, box, or bowl (anything you have handy!) for them to carry food in. You can work on vocabulary, action words, requesting, and turn taking, so it is a great way to encourage language development.

How can I prepare my child to succeed in preschool?

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Therapists often receive this question from parents of little ones ready to begin their journey into school. You may be asking yourself, “Is my child ready for preschool?”, “Am I ready to send them to preschool?”, or “Does my child need to attend preschool?”

The preschool environment sets a foundation for your child’s academic success by providing opportunities to interact and engage with peers, participate in structured learning activities, and increase independence. Here are five social-emotional skills to encourage as you prepare your child to enter this new environment.

 

1) Interaction with peers

Children learn how to engage and play with peers appropriately (sharing, turn-taking, compromising) during classroom interactions. You can encourage appropriate peer interactions within your current surroundings by seeking out opportunities that allow your child to practice engaging with peers. Some ideas include: playing simple turn-taking games with siblings or friends, bringing chalk or bubbles to share at the park, or attending a neighborhood play date.

 

2) Separating in familiar surroundings

If your child feels comfortable separating from you in familiar surroundings, he or she will have an easier time separating when it is time to enter the classroom. To prepare your child for this transition, begin to schedule short periods of time throughout the week that provide opportunities to practice.

 

3) Following simple directions

Preschool teachers will provide simple directions throughout the day to support learning. Your child’s ability to follow adult-directed activities, such as listening, understanding, and following simple directions is necessary for success. You can help prepare your child by giving simple directions throughout the day and helping them follow through (i.e. “go wash your hands” or “bring me your shoes”).

 

4) Anticipating routines

Preschool classrooms often follow a daily routine (circle time, story time, free play, and snack time). Building predictability into your daily schedule will help your child anticipate this. For example, create and follow a consistent bedtime routine or read a book together each day after breakfast.

 

5) Caring for simple needs

The preschool setting requires children to demonstrate basic self-care skills, such as washing their hands or eating meals without assistance. Build your child’s confidence in his or her ability to do things independently by providing opportunities throughout the day to practice self-care skills.

 

If you have concerns about your child’s emerging skills in these areas, consider enrolling them in a class through your neighborhood park district or attend our social-language playgroup where we target these specific preschool readiness skills.

 

Take a look at our Playgroups!

Ask an Expert: Parent Intervention

Why is it important for parents/caregivers to participate in Early Intervention Therapy sessions?

It is pretty obvious that Early Interventionists love working with your adorable little ones, but we love working with the parents/caregivers, too! The hour we spend with your child every week is incredibly valuable, however there are 167 more hours during that week that you can expand upon! Most, if not all, of the activities therapists do with your child can and should be repeated throughout the week to ensure your child getting the most out of their therapy. You may see therapists use certain strategies or language during sessions that could be helpful in another part of your child’s routine.  We encourage you to ask your therapists how you can adapt these approaches into your daily life.