Stuck at home?
Here are 5 ways to work on language development at home during quarantine.
During this time of uncertainty and new routines, many parents are adding more roles to their plates. Parents are stepping in to assist in roles as their child’s teacher, and possibly their speech therapist. As if personal chefs, entertainers, chauffeurs, and referees were not enough roles to juggle! To make things a little simpler, here are some easy ways to target your child’s language development at home.
Get on your child’s level and play with them. Follow their lead with what toys they’re interested in. You really can’t go wrong with this! Focus on commenting on what they are doing, as a sports commentator or narrator would. Instead of asking questions like a quiz, describe the toys the child is using. Talk about their actions. For example, “Bear jump”, “Cars are driving fast!”, “Oops red car crashed!”. You can also model play actions and narrate your own play. For example, “Hmm, I want blue playdoh”. Keep your language simple, just above their current language level.
Don’t forget: Anything can be a toy! Use your imagination!
No need to actually read the words! Start with having fun flipping the pages, saying “turn page!”. Talk about the pictures you see. Avoid asking questions. Instead, label and describe what you see. Take your child’s hand in yours and point to pictures together, and comment “cow!” or “Cow is eating – yum!” Don’t worry about the words on the page until your child is interested in hearing the full story.
Keep in mind: Don’t let book time become a struggle. Your idea of “reading” might not be what they’re ready for right now. Meet your child at their level and keep it fun!
3. Household Tasks
Turn daily household tasks into a chance to work on language.
Sort laundry by size, color, texture, and owner. Describe the clothing as you go, such as “This sweater is fluffy!”, “Big shirt – Daddy’s shirt”, or “These pants are small – they’re your pants!”. Work on matching socks together.
Make a snack together. Most children love being involved in the kitchen. Let them put their own toppings on a pizza – even with a slice of bread or tortilla for the crust! Make cereal treats. Talk about how things taste, smell, and feel. Good to know: Children are much more likely to eat their food when they helped make it!
Put dishes away together. Have them help show you where things go and turn it into a game! This will help them learn the concept of “where”. They don’t need to handle anything fragile to have fun with this.
Have your child help you wipe down the table, mop or sweep the floor, or even vacuum. This helps with their following direction skills. It can also help them develop the use of new action words.
4. Virtual Field trip
Many museums, zoos, planetariums, and nature organizations are offering virtual field trips. Simply type “virtual field trip” into your search engine. You can watch live “critter cams” to watch what the animals are doing. Many websites even have structured activities targeted for children of various ages. Watch some of these together and (you guessed it) – talk about it! Discuss your favorite animals, what they were doing, and what they looked like.
Quick note: Using devices when you are with your child, interacting with the screen together can be great for language development. However, keep independent screen time to a strict minimum. Even if the app they are using is “educational”, it will not help their speech or language to develop. In fact, research is showing that too much independent screen time is not good for a child’s overall development.
5. Get Creative!
Have some boxes from an online delivery? Build a fort. Let your child sit inside the box and color. Build a robot or a train. Add in some other recyclables and build a castle! Let the imaginative play take off from there!
Make a quick scavenger hunt. Walk around and find something in the house starting with each letter of the alphabet. Find items that start with your child’s target sound. Find as many yellow items as you can.
Is clean up time tough? Turn it into a game. Start with “Bet you can’t clean up all of this in 20 seconds!” and start a timer. You could ask them to put away items based on color or category. Give them secret missions by whispering their task in their ear. For example, “Your mission is to put all of the big stuffed animals on the bed”.
This can be an outdoor picnic in your yard, or a living room picnic! Lay down a blanket and get out some plates. Invite teddy bears, favorite toys, and siblings to participate. Keep the snacks in the middle. Work on requesting and offering food to one another. Such as, “Want cookie?”, “How many apple slices would you like?”, “I want the princess plate”, “Cheese please”, and so on.
Please note: How you talk with your child is just as important as what you do with them. Remember to model your language at a level just above your child’s level. If they are using 2-word phrases, speak in 3-word phrases.
Hopefully, these ideas will help you to provide more language-building opportunities during a typical day. Your child is like a sponge. Their language will develop as they are exposed to more and more language-rich activities and environments. There are endless ideas and activities out there. Again, these are just ideas. Please do whatever works for you and your child, especially with additional strains on families at the moment. Simplify as needed. Anything that helps you and your child interact and communicate, is a great way to spend time.
Remember to keep it simple, and keep it fun!