Let’s Go, Go, Go! – Tips for Promoting Your Child’s Speech and Language Skills When You’re on the Run

By Autumn Smith, MS, CF-SLP, Speech-Language Pathologist

baby at grocery store

These days it seems like we all have jam-packed schedules and we’re constantly on the go with work, errands, or countless other small jobs on our ‘to-do’ lists. So it’s not uncommon for many on-the-go parents to find themselves in the following predicament: its 2:00pm, you have yet to go grocery shopping, pick up the kiddos from school, go to swimming lessons, make dinner, eat dinner, and get ready for the next day. So fitting 20- to 30-minutes of speech therapy practice into the mix shouldn’t be too hard, right?

Thankfully, there are numerous ways that you can incorporate your child’s speech and language goals into everyday routines. All are quick, simple, and (most importantly) fun ways to promote your child’s language development without having to add another item to your ever-growing ‘to-do’ list! Check out a few of my favorite activities to try when you’re on the go:

I Spy

‘I Spy’ is a great way to practice vocabulary and expressive language skills with your child. You can play practically anywhere – in the car, at the grocery store, or even getting ready for bed. Encourage your child to imitate objects after you say them or after the object has been found. If they are more advanced they can practice saying the phrase “I spy…” and then choose the object for you to find. If the phrase “I spy” is too difficult for them to say, you can modify the game to say “I see…”

Make a “Favorite Things” Book

Most cell phones now come equipped with cameras, so why not use them to take pictures of the things your child is most interested in to promote their vocabulary growth? Whether you are at the store, waiting to pick up older siblings from school, or on a walk, you can quickly snap photos of your child’s favorite things to print later and turn into a “Favorite Things” book. Your child will be extra motivated to ‘read’ their book at bedtime since they had a part in making it! If you do not want to print photos, try jotting down the items when you spot them with your child, and then let them draw or color pictures of their items once you are home.

Songs and Fingerplays

Listening and singing along to familiar songs is a wonderful way to promote language use! You can listen to the radio, children’s CD’s or even make up your own songs! Fingerplays are also fun to incorporate into your daily routines, as you all can play along with the songs as you sing. A few favorites are Old MacDonald Had a Farm, Itsy Bitsy Spider, and Wheels on the Bus. Once the songs become familiar to your child, you can pause at certain parts of the song to encourage them to fill in the blank (“Old MacDonald had a ___, E-I-E-I-___”). Don’t be afraid to be silly, either! The more you enjoy yourself, the more your child will have fun, too.

Keep Books on Hand

Small board books are great to keep in your car or purse so that you can use your downtime for reading. You do not have to read the story word for word, though–have fun and ‘play’ in the books by ‘popping’ bubbles, ‘eating’ food on the page, or making car/animal noises. This is a great way to encourage language development in the little ones who are not yet using words or phrases, too. Prompt your child to imitate the beginning sounds of basic items in the book, such as “b-b-ball” or “d-d-dog.” Check out the previous post on this blog for some suggestions of exciting books to promote speech and language development!

There’s No Need to Make Extra Time for FUN!

Whether you are running to the store or to school, the post-office or a play-date, you can incorporate fun and simple activities into your routine to target your child’s speech and language skills! Talking to your child and providing them with models of new words and phrases is one of the most important things you can do to support their language growth at a young age. Luckily we can incorporate talking into almost everything we do! So get ready to tackle that ‘to-do’ list, and feel confident that you are supporting your child’s speech and language development at the same time.