What’s in Your House: DIY Activities for Language Development!

Due to all that’s available online and in stores, many parents feel inclined to buy the newest toys on the shelf to support their children’s development. Unfortunately, as a result, parents can overlook the valuable materials in their own homes! Tons of common household items can be converted into toys or activities that stimulate your child’s creativity, expand his or her play ideas, and facilitate language growth and development. Not to mention encouraging your child to play with common household items can reduce clutter, cut down costs, and help your child get creative with what they have! Here are some common household items that function as agents for language use during play. You might be surprised by all you can do with what you have!

Toilet Paper Rolls

Save your empty toilet paper rolls! Encourage vocal play by turning your empty toilet paper rolls into microphones! Taking turns saying sounds and words into your microphone helps to build your child’s imitation skills. You can also tape two rolls together to make a set of binoculars! Use your binoculars to target object naming and object identification, through fun games like I-Spy and hide-and-seek.

Pots, Pans, and Spoons

Channel your child’s inner musician by playing with pots and pans! You can sing familiar songs or model strings of single words or sounds, such as “tap tap tap” or “bang bang bang,” as you play with your culinary instruments. By imitating the things you say and do, your child is practicing a critical step in learning reciprocal communication.

Laundry Basket

Laundry baskets (or any other open container) can easily be transformed into cars, trains, boats, or planes with a little imagination. As your child drives the makeshift vehicle, model target phrases and environmental sounds, such as “drive,” “go car,” “choo choo,” “vroom,” “beep beep,” etc. After taking your laundry basket for a spin, try using it as a basketball hoop and ask your child to throw different objects inside. This is a great way to target object labels and following single-step directions within a fun routine!

Painter’s Tape

Tape a line on the floor to serve as a road or balance beam. To target verbal requests, rip bits of tape off at a time to verbal requests such as, “more road” or “tape on” or “need tape.” You can also take turns hopping, crawling, or tiptoeing on the tape to practice imitation of gross motor actions! Imitating gross motor actions is a great precursor to imitating gestures, sounds, and words!

Blanket

Aside from using blankets for pretend play (i.e., putting a baby doll to sleep), you can use blankets for a variety of social games. Peek-a-boo is a great game to target joint attention and verbal turn taking. After you lift the blanket up, say the phrase, “Peek-a….” and wait for your child to fill in, “Boo!” before lowering the blanket. This helps build anticipation and establishes a cause-effect relationship between your child’s words and your actions. Other social games include blanket swing, blanket train or magic carpet, and silly sneezes (i.e. Lifting the blanket and saying, “Ah, ah, choo!” as you lower it).

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s responses to noise, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Jill Teitelbaum, MS, CF-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist

Photo Credit: Michal Bar Haim on Unsplash.com

Why is My Toddler’s Speech Therapist Only Playing with My Child?

The importance of play in language development

Many parents are confused when their birth-to-three speech therapist arrives and begins talking about “play skills” instead of “speech skills.” Do not fret! Speech and play skills are HIGHLY related. Play, and more specifically pretend play, gives us a look into your child’s world. Play skills demonstrate your child’s cognitive skills, which are your child’s ability to think, process language, play attention, learn, and plan their next move. All of these skills are essential for speech and language development!

Let’s break it down!

 

There are four basic types of play: Exploratory, Functional, Constructive, and Pretend.

Exploratory:  using senses of touch, taste and smell to learn about new objects. This begins when your child has intentional control over their body. Children who enjoy shaking, mouthing or smelling new objects are in the exploratory stage.

Functional: using toys and objects as they were intended. Functional play, such as is using a spoon to stir, racing cars or rolling a ball. Pay attention to whether your child is using an object or simply enjoying watching one part of the object, such as wheels turning.

Constructive: manipulating objects to make something new. This stage of play includes more trial and error to see how pieces can work together with a final goal in mind. Constructive play includes building train tracks, assembling and disassembling blocks and other toys, or sorting shapes and objects.

Pretend or symbolic: using objects in imaginary ways. Such as, pretending your hand or a block is a phone, emptying a box to make a doll a bed or bathtub, pretending a baby is crying and soothing a baby, or making a pretend steering wheel for a car. Children who dress up and act like a specific person are also engaging in pretend play.

Why is it important?

If your child is using functional play then they are demonstrating an understanding of what objects are and why they are used. When your child uses pretend play, they are demonstrating symbolic understanding of one object for another object. Words are also symbolic! Words are a symbol to represent objects, people, events, feelings, and physical states. If your child is using objects for another object, then your child demonstrates understanding that words have symbolic meaning and the cognitive skills for using words meaningfully!

Children who are using words, but are not yet playing functionally or symbolically, likely do not yet have a solid understanding of word meanings and may have difficulty using the same words in a variety of contexts. For example, think of all the ways we can play with a ball: we can roll, throw, or bounce a ball. There are different balls for different sports, or we could even pretend a ball is an apple. A child who only knows “ball” for labeling or does not yet play with a ball meaningfully is not understanding what that toy is used for and how it can be related to other objects or people. Children who are not using pretend play by the time they are two years old are at risk of cognitive and speech and language deficits.

Ways to help your toddler!

Meet your little one where they are with play. If your child is still in the exploratory phase, try modeling constructive play (fill and dump or assemble and knock down) and functional play to begin showing how objects go together. For example, a spoon can be used for stirring or eating food, but we don’t use a spoon to wiggle in front of our face.

Once your little one has some early play skills, get creative and add additional prompts or a new way to play. Pretend food, animals and baby dolls are some of my favorite toys for pretend play!

For more information on pretend and symbolic play, check out a previous blog from Kim Shales, our director of developmental therapy.

If you have further questions or concerns, call PlayWorks Therapy, Inc. for a full speech and language evaluation.

Jessica Delos Reyes, MA, CCC-SLP

Speech-Language Pathologist

Image: https://www.google.com/search?q=pretend+play&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwirjJi9097WAhUi3YMKHdKuDyQQ_AUICygC&biw=1198&bih=700#imgrc=-kgdDwYHFdD1kM:

6 Sensational Spring/Summer Activities for Speech & Language

By Caitlin Brady, M.A., CCC-SLP

We at PlayWorks Therapy Inc. are so excited that the weather seems to finally be turning spring-like! Spring and summer bring the opportunity for vacations, long days of playing outside, exploring new places, drawing with chalk, barbeques and other fun outdoor activities! Here are six sensational spring/summer activities that are great for speech and language practice – how about that for alliteration?

Playworks Therapy

So, grab your kids, toys and sunblock, it’s time to start playing!

1.) Sunscreen Body Parts

Speaking of sunblock, applying sunblock provides a great opportunity to practice naming and identifying body parts! You can target receptive language (language comprehension) by having your child point to or lather up a named body part (i.e. “Put this on your nose!” or “Show me your ears!”) and expressive language (language output via speech, signs, etc.) by encouraging your child to name or imitate the name of various body parts. You could also have your child continue this practice as they help you put on your sunblock.

2.) Chalk

One of my favorite memories from childhood summers includes decorating my long driveway with hopscotch, family portraits, shapes and other chalk drawings with my neighbors and brother. A few ideas include drawing and labeling shapes, naming colors, singing a song related a picture (i.e. Wheels on the Bus, Hopscotch song, etc.) You could also draw animals and name them and their respective noises. For older kiddos, see if you can categorize farm animals vs. jungle animals, etc.

3.) Hide and Seek

Hide and seek is my favorite way to practice spatial concepts including on top, under, behind, next to, etc. You can hide in a yard, home or hide a toy and look for it together. Be sure to identify where the toy or person was hidden. This is also a great way to continue adding new phrases to your child’s vocabulary (i.e. ball under tree). For younger kids, you can practice naming the hidden object (i.e. ball, banana, etc.)

4.) Explore (zoo, aquarium, vacation)

Summer brings many opportunities to explore new places including a new vacation locale, the zoo, the beach, the library, a local playground or park, and these places provide tons of new vocabulary words! Be sure to talk about what you are doing and seeing (i.e. animal names/noises, digging, playing, swimming, books, build, hike, etc.) You can also target receptive language by having your child follow one-step or multi-step directions (i.e. “Go get the ball and bring it to me!” or “Give me the bucket, then the shovel.”) or by practicing pointing to new words (i.e. “Point to the giraffes”).

5.) Water/Sand Play

Summer provides endless opportunities for sensory-based play including, but not limited to, sand, water, Play-Doh, playing with shaving cream, finger painting, etc.! You can build castles in the sand, make water balloons, play in an outdoor baby pool, pretend car wash toy cars (or real ones), draw shapes in the sand or shaving cream, make shapes or animals in Play-Doh. Sensory play provides opportunities to talk about what you’re making (i.e. shapes, animals, etc.), as well as opportunities to talk about how things look and feel (wet, cold, color, etc.) You could also incorporate body parts, action words.

Quick tip: I always find it helpful to keep a wet cloth nearby in the event that your child is uncomfortable and would like to wipe his or her hands or face.

6.) “Cook” together

This last one is my favorite, as I’m a serious foodie. I love to cook (and eat) and grew my love of food by cooking with or watching my mom cook. However, this is an activity that you can do with children of all ages as you could have them help with something simple like mixing pudding and milk. Cooking provides great opportunities to teach sequencing (first, then, last, etc.), taste words (sweet, sour, salty, crunchy, smooth) and try new foods together! Another fun idea is to make homemade Play-Doh or peanut butter Play-Doh together. There are various recipes available online.

Enjoy these activities, the warm weather and contact me at Caitlin@playworkschicago.com with any questions!