Adding Therapy tricks to your Vacation!

Ask an Expert

We’re going on vacation, is there anything I can do to work on language with my child while we are gone?

Yes! In fact, the possibilities are endless! Almost anything you do can be turned into a language opportunity, from labeling things you see in your new environment, to bringing portable activities along with you. Here are some specific examples that are good for airplanes, cars, hotel rooms, or wherever you may find yourself on vacation!

  1. Books: Books contain endless opportunities to encourage language development through pointing to pictures, imitation of words, labeling pictures, etc. Bring favorites or new ones to engage them.
  2. Crayons and paper or coloring books: These can be used for labeling pictures or colors, requesting (“more,” “help,” “all done,” etc.), using imagination to create open dialogue and promote exchange of language between you and your child.
  3. Songs and Fingerplays: Use songs they already know or teach them some new songs and fingerplays to practice imitation of words and actions, e.g. “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” “Wheels on the Bus,” etc.
  4. Scavenger hunt! Wherever you are, there are bound to be opportunities for you to have your child look for something specific (such as an animal or car), something a certain color (if they know them), or other things in your environment. Have them imitate sounds, words, etc. or modify for whatever their goals are.
  5. Use your imagination! Whatever the trip entails, there are always ways to encourage language. Don’t forget to label what else you see throughout your trip to give them a language model of these new and exciting things in their environment!

April’s Featured Learning Toy

The Elefun Busy Ball PopperScreen Shot 2015-03-30 at 9.58.19 PM

The Elefun Busy Ball Popper by Playskool is a wonderful toy for engaging in joint attention, teaching turn taking, as well as promoting early language use. This is a great tool for teaching cause and effect, as your little one takes a turn putting the balls in and watching them pop back out! Encourage your child to request “more” verbally or through sign language before taking another turn. (*Therapist tip: You can turn the switch to off in between turns so that your child has to communicate with you for it to work again!)You can also support their expressive language use by adding words to your play: “Pop! Pop! Pop!” “Ready, set, go!” or “Go ball!”


One Large Cardbord Box can be…. anything!

Playing With Just Your Imagination:

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If you give a kid a cardboard box he’ll want…nothing! That is because a cardboard box (preferably big enough for them to fit in) could be anything! A house, a barn, a racecar, a spaceship, the perfect hide and seek hideout? They could transform into a robot or superhero, a princess in her castle or stuck in a tower, etc. The box becomes whatever your child wants it to be, which elicits fun and imaginative play for hours on end!

Upcoming Community Events in April

Mr. Hippity Hop at Loyola Park

Introduce your child to Mr. Hippity Hop, a giant white rabbit, as they search for plastic eggs among the toys, and receive a prize.  Free. Ages 1 – 5 years.  Saturday, April 4th 11am – 12noon.

Animal Enrichment Workshop at Lincoln Park Zoo

Your child can create edible piñatas, willow balls, wreaths and other enriching items that will entertain the cats, gorillas and rhinoceros that call the Lincoln Park Zoo home. Free for children under 3 years; $5/non-member; $4/member.  April 11th 1 – 3:30pm

Tunes with Tim at Kid’s Island

This interactive music class is not only fun, it’s an essential component to young children’s development of social, physical, creative, and cognitive skills.  $12/Child. Ages 1-4 years. Tuesdays @ 11am in April.

Story Time at the Botanic Gardens

Stop by for nature-themed stories and activities Monday mornings in the Lenhardt Library! Ages 2-5 years.  April 6th 10 – 11am.

Ask an Expert: Language Development

Will using sign language prevent my child from speaking?

No, when your child is able to speak, he or she will. In fact, using signs may do just the opposite and help your child to learn to speak faster. Using signs allows your child to have access to words using all senses. Your child can hear the word, produce the sign and see the object all at the same time. The child will also begin to associate the need to produce a word with achieving a desired result. This plants the seed for further language growth while building your child’s confidence. Finally the use of sign language is a GREAT way to reduce frustration. Your child will have a way to communicate his wants and needs while he is still learning to talk.


Playing With Just Your Imagination: SOAP FOAM

Cut a bar of Ivory soap in quarter bar pieces. Place one piece on a paper towel and microwave for 1-2 minutes. The soap will expand into a giant foam cloud. Place cloud in a bowl or baking pan and allow little hands to explore the dry foam texture. Try adding water a little bit at a time. The foam will “melt” and allow a bunch of different textures for little fingers to explore.

Featured Learning Toy:


Fisher Price Barnyard Bingo

Age group: 24 months and up

An important goal for 2-year-olds is to learn how to engage and play with peers appropriately, so they need adults to model and guide them through the process. This toy provides the opportunity for children to practice turn-taking and sharing skills while improving matching skills at the same time!

Ask an Expert: Creating a Language Learning Experience

We love to read to our child at night before bed. Are there any tips to make this ritual a language learning experience?

Reading is a great way to expose your little one to language and encourage communication.At this age, stick to short and simple board books with bright pictures of common objects. There should be about one idea per page. Before you read, introduce the book to your child and talk about the cover with enthusiasm.Read slowly, so you child has time to take in the story and pictures. And, of course, be sure to read with enthusiasm! If you are interested in the book, your child will be too.You can try using different voices for different characters. You can incorporate conversation by pointing to the pictures of common objects and asking your child to label the object: “Look, it’s a ____!”If you have a book that your child enjoys that is too advanced, simplify the story for them by only reading the main points seen in the pictures.

Don’t worry if your child keeps asking for the same book over and over again. Young children commonly enjoy the same story and the repetition helps to learn language!

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


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


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!