It's winter time and we're all indoors a LOT with our kids right now (if you live in the midwest like me!). That has me thinking about engaging my kids with some fun indoor activities so I wanted to share my thoughts on how that ties back to LANGUAGE. . .
I do my very best to keep both my therapy AND home based programs FUN and interactive for kiddos AND their parents. Yes, there may be some drill and repetition involved in articulation homework, as I talked about in an earlier post, but when it comes to LANGUAGE development in particular, there's no better way of targeting and building kids' language skills than through PLAY! Parents, you play such an IMPORTANT role in your child's development but it doesn't have to feel like 'work'!! Make it FUN! Make it INTERACTIVE! And don't sweat it if that language or concept you're trying to 'teach' doesn't happen right away! By getting down on the ground with your toddler for some concentrated one-on-one play time or pulling out your 8 year old's favorite board game for the 80th time, you ARE supporting your kids' development each and every time you do this. You model language and speech sounds, you teach them new vocabulary, you demonstrate good turntaking skills and most importantly, you CONNECT with your child. Language and communication are a natural part of this process. Carve out some time and ENJOY your kids in the midst of all the crazy. You won't regret it!
Here are several games or toys that you might even have in your house right now, which are GREAT for these cold, winter days inside! Believe me when I say the 'list' of games or toys that can support language development is truly endless! Here are just a few that I (and my kids) have enjoyed through the years, along with some ideas on targeting different language skills along the way. Get creative with this and have fun!!
Games/Toys for Toddler/Preschool Age
Mr. Potato Head
Naming Body Parts
Requesting (body parts, colors)
Following directions, using spatial concept words like ‘in’ or ‘on’
Describing (He has a hat. He has a pink nose.). Get your little ones talking about what they’re doing or what they’ve made!
Great for fine motor skills (putting pieces inside of the small holes)
Be SILLY and put body parts in the ‘wrong’ place, then ask your child, ‘Does his nose go here? No! Not here! (working on negation)
Go Fish by Fisher Price
Great for practicing turn taking with the fishing pole/building social skills (quick turns moving the pole between players, using the language of ‘my turn’ or ‘your turn’ through this process)
Color identification, naming and matching (match the color fish to the color of your boat or ‘throw it back in the pond!’)
Counting skills (count the fish in your boat)
Again, great fine motor tool!
Working on expanded utterances (sentences) and building grammar skills. Have 1 or 2 ‘phrases’ that child should say after each turn, tailored to language level of the child (I got a blue fish!).
Barn/Farm animals and Dollhouses/dolls (like Fisher Price Little People sets)
Wonderful for pretend play and getting kids’ creative juices flowing!
Great for targeting early functional vocabulary (i.e. names of rooms in a house, action words for what you DO in those rooms like ‘sleep’ or ‘eat’, furniture/items around the home, animal names, animal sounds)
Target prepositions and concept vocabulary like ‘in’, ‘out’, ‘open’, ‘close’, ‘on’, ‘under’, etc.
Following directions (put the baby in her bed)
Wonderful toys for building social skills and conversational turntaking/interactions with your child
Let your little one initiate an interaction (as a cow or baby or anything they want to be) and you follow! This is a GREAT tool for building turntaking in conversation and allowing your child to take the 'lead' on what's going to 'happen' in the story! When you let them lead, it's amazing how much you might get out of them!
ALWAYS a hit with small and big kids alike!
Great for targeting first words and sounds with infants/toddlers (model words like ‘pop’, ‘blow’, ‘more’, ‘open’) and see if you can elicit these words or beginning sounds from your little one!
Great for targeting ACTION words/verbs: roll it (with hand or rolling pin), smash it, squeeze it, stretch it, cut it (with plastic play-doh knife)
Target early language by expanding on what a child says: If a child talks about their creation in 1-2 word utterances (i.e. snake!), you can mimic back what you hear AND expand their utterance to provide a great model of language (Long snake! Or Yes, it's a snake!)
Games for older children (elementary and up)
From same creators as TENZI, you identify a picture of an item that ‘goes with’ the description (ex. ‘Lives outside and is green’ or ‘found in water’) and first person to ‘slap’ their card down can get rid of that card
Builds understanding of ‘attributes’ and how words/things fit together or can be categorized
Can expand on this by having kids name 2-3 MORE things that would fit that description
Guess Who by Hasbro
Great game for deductive reasoning, keeping track and questioning skills
Try to figure out who your opponent’s ‘person’ is by asking yes/no questions to eliminate people they are ‘not’ and keep track of the information you gather
Tell Tale (by Blue Orange Games) and Story Cubes (by Gamewright)
Using picture cards or dice with pictures, you can create stories with any size of group
Many variations of games/play but these pictures provide fun ‘cues’ for ‘adding on’ to any story or creating your own from scratch
Can work on story sequencing, descriptive language, grammar and syntax in spoken language. . . . the possibilities are endless in these storytelling games!
Get your teammates to guess the word/phrase on the card by using verbal clues but WITHOUT using specific words
Works on verbal descriptions, gets kids thinking about other ways to describe or talk about something and possibly using DIFFERENT descriptors than what they’re used to
As you can see, there are just SO MANY ways to get your kids communicating, WHILE having fun and connecting with them. Don't forget that simple turntaking games are also GREAT to do while your child is working on their speech sound homework and can be very motivating for them. Feel free to comment on this post and tell us about YOUR favorite family games/activities that really engage your kiddos and get them talking! Until next time, enjoy your indoor, winter family game night!!