With summer here, most people will find themselves spending some time at the beach. While taking children to the beach makes for some enjoyable family time, it presents its own unique set of challenges. Kiddos need to be occupied! If you don’t feel like spending the whole day in the ocean or letting your child bury you in a pit of sand up to your neck, we have an idea for you. Start a sea shell hunt! Simply walk around the beach collecting the shells you want to keep. This activity can occupy kiddos for a large amount of time and allows for practice of important language skills! The shells can be re-purposed later for crafts. (We will do a follow up post on this topic next week!)
As per usual, this post is broken up into two different sections based on language skills. Scroll to the section that best applies to your child.
Emergent Language Skills
This section applies to children who are not consistently verbalizing or doing so with 1-2 word utterances.
Core Words: I, you, it, want, more, no, do, get, all done, like, help, on, in, put, see, look
Nouns: beach, ocean, sand, sea shell, pail, shovel
The idea is to model phrases for your kiddo to imitate. Simply comment on the activity and create utterances ranging from 1-3 words by combining the core words and nouns listed above. Remember to reinforce your child’s attempts at communication or their imitation of utterances with praise for their efforts! Here are some examples of utterances to model:
I see shells
Put shells in
More in pail
No more shells
I see sand
You all done
Get more shells
I like beach
Expanding Language Skills
This section applies to children who are speaking in full sentences, but need to expand their vocabulary and narrative skills. So much higher level vocabulary can be introduced during a sea shell hunt!
Sure, you can dig around and see some shells, but you could also:
delve into the sand, sift through the sand, hunt, observe, notice, spot, detect, discover, find, recover
Before placing it in the bucket, stop and talk about each shell you find. It’s a great way to model the use of new describing words for your child. You may want to try some of these:
Rough, smooth, weathered, worn, bumpy, coarse, jagged, pointy, round, striped, shiny, shimmery, dull, chipped, cracked
What do you like to do with the shells you collect? Comment below! Visit our page again next week for a follow up post with ideas for how to use the sea shells you find on the hunt!
Parents and children alike can enjoy the fresh, festive snack we are making today! We used strawberries, blueberries, whipped cream, and graham crackers to make this fun treat. You could also use yogurt if you wanted to use this activity in the morning for breakfast. We began the activity by explaining that Fourth of July is a holiday we celebrate because it’s “America’s birthday.” Then we showed our kiddo a flag and told them we would be making an American flag out of fruit.
This activity could be modified in many ways. Older kiddos with more advanced language skills can benefit from a more informative explanation of the history behind Independence Day. Kiddos who have difficulty with fine motor skills may not be able to form a flag, even with a model. If this is the case, provide some assistance because it should be an enjoyable task and not a frustrating one! As we’ve done in the past, the post is split into two parts based on language levels. Simply scroll to the section that applies to your child’s skills!
Materials: whipped cream or yogurt, graham crackers, blueberries, strawberries
1. Spread either yogurt or whipped cream on top of the graham cracker.
2. Place a few blueberries in the upper left corner to form a square shape.
3. Arrange strawberries to form stripes.
4. Use this flag treat as a model so your child has a visual example.
Emerging Language Skills
This is for kiddos who do not consistently verbalize, or do so using 1-2 word utterances.
Core Words: I, you, it, want, more, no, do, all done, like, help, on, in, put, red, white, blue, see
Nouns: plate, spoon, whipped cream, cracker, strawberry, blueberry, flag
Simply create utterances ranging from 1-3 words by combining the core words and nouns listed above. Remember to reinforce your child’s attempts at communication, or their imitation of utterances, with praise for their efforts! Here are some examples of utterances to model:
I want whipped cream
I want more strawberries
Put more blueberries
Put on more
I want help
Help put on
Blueberries all done
I like strawberries
I see flag
Do more flags
Flag all done
Expanding Language Skills
This is for kiddos who communicate using complete sentences, but need to work on building vocabulary and/or developing narrative skills.
Vocabulary: While explaining the meaning of the holiday, you may choose to introduce some or all of the following words: independence, freedom, patriotic, celebrate. While creating your flag treat, you can introduce some higher level vocabulary too. Explain that you are using a graham cracker because it is rectangular, like a flag. Tell your child that they must place their strawberries on the cracker to create stripes. You can further explain that these are parallel lines which never intersect, or cross each other.
Narrative Skills: At the beginning of the task, describe how to create the flag treat while making your model. Here is an example:
"First we need to get a graham cracker. Then we must spread whipped cream on the cracker in a thin layer to cover the entire surface. Next, we arrange blueberries in the corner. Finally, we make stripes with our strawberries."
Later, ask your child if they could tell someone else how to make the flag treat to practice this skill. Provide cues if they forget steps in the process.
By cutting the strawberries and prepping the materials beforehand, this activity can also be done with a group of kiddos at a BBQ. What other festivities do you enjoy with your kiddos on this holiday? Comment below!
Since it’s Father’s Day, in honor of all the heroic dads out there, we are talking about comic books! Many parents like to read them with their kiddos and a variety of language skills can be practiced while perusing comics. For some of the tasks below, reading the story isn’t even necessary!
If you are not reading the story and simply perusing the pictures, try asking some of our simple questions. If you and your kiddo are reading the story, our complex questions will delve more into their comprehension of the plot. Either way, when posing our suggested questions, first see if your child can answer. If they are having difficulty, try repeating the question again to let them process what is being asked. If this is not enough support, you can provide 2-3 verbal choices. If they still need assistance, you can provide a visual cue by pointing towards the picture answer on the page. Here are some suggested questions:
Where are they?
Who is that?
Where is ___________? (Insert character or any vocabulary word)
What is _________ doing? (Insert character name)
Who is wearing a purple cape? (Or any other color combined with item of clothing)
What is the story mostly about?
Who is the main character?
Where does the story take place?/What is the setting?
Who is the villain?
What is the problem or conflict in the story?
What is the solution to the problem?
What three words can describe the hero?
What three words can describe the villain?
What will happen next? Why?
How does ____________ feel here? How can you tell? (Insert character name)
What do you like about the story?
What do you dislike about the story?
Just looking at the pictures can be fun! If your kiddo is not into reading the story, simply exploring the illustrations is fine! You can still test their receptive language skills by asking them to point to different items or characters. Based on your child’s language level, you can provide one-step or multi-step directives. Here are some examples of both:
Find someone with a blue cape.
Turn the page.
First point to Superman, and then point to Lois Lane.
Before you close the book, find Thor.
Comics have many illustrations on a page. Children often require practice listening to complex sentences and ensuring they comprehend all the parts presented. Select one picture and describe it. Your child will have to scan the page to find the correct one that has all the components mentioned. (i.e. This picture has a woman falling off a building and Superman is about to catch her.)
Many children with ASD have difficulty identifying the emotions of others. Illustrators draw such vivid pictures in comics and this creates a great opportunity to discuss the features of faces portraying different feelings. Here are some sample discussion questions:
Who looks angry?
How do we know ______ is angry?
Superman has red eyes. Do real people get red eyes when they are mad?
How do you know this character is scared?
What else tells us that someone is sad?
What are your favorite comics to read with kiddos? Comment below!
With summer here, it’s a great time to talk about sand play. If used properly, you can build more than just castles. It is possible to develop a variety of language skills through play with sand. It is also highly motivating for kids because this activity involves an enjoyable sensory component. Whether you are playing with kinetic sand and that is great for molding, sand in a bin, or the stuff that makes up a beach, you can use our SLP suggestions. This post is divided into two sections. One is for kiddos with emergent language skills and the other is for children working towards expanding their language skills. Scroll to the section that applies to your specific kiddo’s needs.
Emergent Language Skills
(This refers to children who do not consistently verbalize, or communicate using 1-2 word utterances.)
How you use the sand is less relevant than how you use the communication opportunities it presents. It doesn’t matter if you choose to dig a hole and bury something, introduce sand toys, scoop it with shovels, or simply let your child explore the sand with their hands. What you should plan to do is comment on the events during play. Model a variety of 1-3 word utterances combining the target vocabulary below. Praise your child whenever they imitate your utterances or produce their own.
Core Words: want/need, do, more, done, go, on, in, put, again, no, help, see, big, small, I, you, it, me
Nouns: Sand, shovel, fish, bucket, spoon, cup, bowl, hole (or any other toys introduced)
Extra verbs: dig, scoop, build
I want sand
I need help
I dig more
Do it again
Dig hole again
Put sand in
Cup in sand
Help me shovel
I see sand
Put it in
Expanded Language Skills
(This refers to children who speak in sentences but need to build vocabulary and narrative skills.)
Build a castle and target specific vocabulary: If you want to introduce some more advanced words, try building a sand castle using our suggestions below.
Dig a hole and practice narrative skills: As we have said before, the best way to build story telling skills is to expose your kiddo to narratives frequently. Besides reading stories, you can explain what you are doing on a daily basis. Model the use of sequential words (i.e. first, next, then, last). This can be done with any task. Here’s our example as it relates to digging a hole and burying a person: (This could be tweaked for burying a smaller item too!)
"I’m going to bury your body in the sand. Don’t worry your head stays out! First, I’ll use a shovel to dig a small hole. Then, I’ll make it deeper. Next, I’ll make it wider. Then, you jump in. Put your body in a comfortable position . Then, I’ll cover your legs and arms with sand!"
Where do you prefer to play with sand? The beach? A bin? Looking for SLP suggestions for a specific sand task? Comment below!
Want to work on improving your child’s language skills this summer? Get ready to CHALK up your success to this activity! With the warm weather here, it’s time to have a talk about sidewalk chalk! A complex lesson plan isn’t needed to build language skills. As you will see, a simple $1 pack of chalk can go a long way!
As we’ve done before, we’ll provide some ideas for stimulating language with this activity, but we’ll be breaking up the post into two separate sections: Ideas for kiddos with emerging language skills, and ideas for expanding language and vocabulary. Scroll to the section that best applies to the skills you would like to target.
This is for kiddos not speaking consistently, or communicating using 1-2 word utterances.
Core Vocabulary: want, more, like, no, put, on, help
Describing words: (These will depend on the chalk colors or pictures you draw.) Some of ours were: big, small, pink, blue, purple, yellow, green, messy, neat, clean,
Nouns: chalk, any labels for pictures you draw (Some of ours were balloons, flowers.)
While using the chalk to make pictures, the idea is to comment on the events taking place. You could discuss the picture you make, your child’s drawings, or even any other things happening in the area. Combine the target words above to form 1-3 word utterances. These are easier to imitate than longer complex sentences. Here are some examples:
I want chalk
No more blue
Put on purple
More small flowers
I want more
I want help
This is for kiddos using sentences who need help responding to questions, building vocabulary, or using narratives.
1. Practice responding to questions. See the pictures we shared? Creating chalk art to add your body for photos, presents many languages opportunities. First, we searched Pinterest to select some pictures we wanted to try to recreate. You can search "Chalk art" or "Chalk pictures." While you’re selecting pictures, drawing, and taking photos, you can pose many types of questions. If your kiddo has difficulty responding, model some appropriate responses, or you can provide choices. Here are some examples:
What should we draw?
Who will take the picture?
Who will pose for the picture?
How should you position your body for the shot?
What do you like about this photo?
Where should we draw the picture?
Which one is your favorite?
What could we do differently?
How should I start the picture?
2. Practice telling a narrative. The best way to build story telling skills is to expose your kiddo to narratives frequently. Besides reading stories, you can explain what you are doing on a daily basis. Model the use of sequential words (i.e. first, next, then, last). This can be done with any picture you draw. Here’s our example:
I’m going to make the balloon picture. First, I’ll use the white chalk to make the balloon strings. Then, I’ll use green, yellow, purple, and blue chalk sticks to create different balloons. Next, you have to lay down. Position your body to make it look like you are floating. Then, I’ll take the picture!
3. Select specific vocabulary to teach and use a mural to introduce the words. Work together to create a large themed scene. Based on the type of mural you make, you can select a bunch of related vocabulary. Here are some theme suggestions:
Space: Planets, solar system, stars, constellations, astronauts, rocket ship
Ocean: sea weed, coral reef, octopus, shark, whale, school of fish, crustaceans (or crab if that word is too hard), sting ray,
With summer quickly approaching, it is time to start discussing vacations! Whether you are a teacher taking students on a field trip, or a parent organizing a family getaway, there’s a good possibility you’ll find yourself at a theme park this summer. If you have visited one recently, you may have noticed several kiddos of all ages passing the time between attractions with a smart phone or tablet of some sort. While electronics often keep kiddos occupied, we want you to reconsider using them at your next theme park visit. These parks are FILLED with communication opportunities and excessive use of technology can limit social interaction in any setting. Let’s review some language lessons that can be squeezed into your next trip!
There’s so much to see in a theme park! Simply labeling the the things you see can help children learn many new words. Model short utterances to teach new vocabulary. Use phrases such as:
There’s a __________.
Look! A _________.
I see _________.
That’s a __________.
If your kiddos are pulling you in different directions or pointing to desired items or snacks, model some useful phrases for them to imitate to aid requesting. Give positive feedback for appropriately “using words” to ask for things.
I want to eat!
I want a snack.
More ice cream!
Let’s go again!
I need a rest.
Kiddos sometimes have difficulty labeling their own emotions. It can be helpful to identify the feelings of others to provide practice with this skill. Luckily, any theme park is filled with children experiencing a range of emotions. As you pass kiddos, describe how they are feeling and the identifying factors that led to the decision. You can also label your child’s emotions for them to help them identify feelings later.
“I can see that boy is sad because he is crying.”
“Did you hear the girl yelling? She must be angry!”
“You aren’t smiling and your eyes look a bit teary. You seem sad. What can I do?”
In between attractions, start a dialogue about the activities your group has completed thus far. Model the language you want your child to use. Talk about things you liked and disliked and ask your kiddo their opinion. You may have to provide several models to elicit the language necessary for a discussion like this. Here are some examples of utterances to model:
I really liked that rollercoaster, but the fast part was scary! What did you think?
I love the pretty unicorns on the carousel!
The ice cream was delicious! I loved it.
I did not like the loud sounds in that movie. I don’t like wearing the 3-D glasses because seeing things come close to my face is weird!
Coping with Frustration
Even though there are several opportunities for enjoyment, theme parks can be stressful scenarios! Long lines, inclement weather, loud sounds, and unpredictable events can make children upset or uneasy. When these frustrating moments come, use it as a time to teach coping skills. Here are some examples:
Long lines: Teach counting to ten when frustrated, playing a game like “I Spy” or talking to friends and family members to pass the time.
Overheated or tired: Teach requesting a break or snack
Attraction closed: Help your child label frustrated or angry feelings. Then have them identify another preferred activity to find.
What theme parks are you visiting this summer? Need specific language suggestions? Comment below!
With summer quickly approaching, we planned to discuss some fun outdoor activities to promote speech and language development. Unfortunately, the rainy South Florida weather ruined our plans for blog photos! So we are switching it up to discuss some indoor activities to help your kiddos communicate. While rainy days are great for movies, it isn’t a viable option for the entire day. Have no fear, we've rounded up some of our previous posts about indoor tasks that are fun for the whole family! With all these great ideas, you won’t be saying “Rain, rain, go away!” In fact, you won’t mind at all if the soggy weather is here to stay!
It looks like it will be another rainy week for us here! Which indoor activity is your favorite? Is there one you want us to talk about from an SLP perspective? If so, tell us in the comments.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the great moms out there! In the spirit of a common gift given on this holiday, we are chatting about ... Flower Candies!! They are also the perfect spring treat! This is a cooking task children can do with less supervision and support than many other kitchen activities. They can also practice following directions and fine motor skills while creating these candies.
As we have done in the past, we are going to list the directions to complete the task first. Then we’ll break the post into two sections, based on target language skills. Read the portion that best applies to your child’s communication goals.
Materials: snap pretzels, white chocolate chips, M&Ms candy
Emerging Language Skills
This refers to kiddos not consistently communicating, or doing so with 1-2 word utterances.
Core Words: I, you, it, want, more, done, help, like, put, on, in, eat, yellow, pink (or any colors used)
Nouns: M&M, candy, pretzel, plate, microwave
Combine the target words in a variety of ways to describe the events taking place during the activity. The idea is to model 1-3 word utterances, so that they are simple enough for your child to imitate. Provide lots of positive praise for any independent utterances. Here are some sample phrases to model:
I want pretzel
I want plate
Put on chocolate
Put in microwave
Put on pretzel
Put on candy
Put on red
I want eat
No more pretzels
I want help
I like yellow
I like pretzels
Expanding Language Skills
This refers to kiddos communicating with complete sentences, who need to increase their vocabulary, or combine sentences to produce narratives.
To help your child use higher level vocabulary, you must model the use of these words so they can learn the proper context for them. Here are five suggested words to infuse into the directions for the activity:
Distribute the chocolate chips evenly. Each pretzel should have three.
Press the yellow M&M into the center of the softened chocolate.
Arrange six candies around the center for the petals.
In a few minutes, the chocolate will become firmer and the candies will be ready for serving!
As you are giving the directions, emphasize use of sequencing words (I.e. first, then, next, last) to model narrative skills. After completing the activity, ask your child to describe the process, or to practice telling someone else how to make flower candies. Provide cues to help them retell if necessary!
Love cooking with kiddos? Checkout s'more of our fun food posts! What other treats do your kiddos enjoy creating? Tell us in the comments!
Like the rest of the world, we are obsessed with the new Avengers movie, Infinity War. The plot revolves around possession of extremely powerful gems called the infinity stones. For the folks reading who aren’t Marvel fans, (Why aren’t you?) we will list the stones. They actually relate to some very important rules for promoting reading with your child.
There are six stones and each one correlates to a different rule. Like the gems, these rules are extremely powerful. The stones are: the time stone, the power stone, the reality stone, the space stone, the soul stone, and the mind stone. Later this week, we will be releasing a freebie related to this topic. We want you to take these rules into consideration when reading with your kiddo. But also, discuss the stones together to get their perspective on each area. Everyone likes control and we should respect children’s perspectives about how they learn best whenever possible! The Avengers know they are stronger when they work together. Your child will feel better knowing you are on their side, helping them improve their reading skills! Our freebie will have cards for each stone and discussion points to help you guide the conversation with your child. Now on to our gauntlet guidelines!
The Time Stone
When we mention the time stone, we are referring to time spent reading. The gold standard is thirty minutes a day, but many families have difficulty meeting this goal and give up completely. Some time spent reading is better than none! The idea is to spend as much time as possible because more literacy time, means more exposure to new words, which builds both decoding and language skills. To help your child improve, make sure you spend SOME time each day reading together. If this isn’t currently in your routine, start with ten minutes a day. If reading is not a preferred activity for your kiddo, then work on extending the time subtly, by adding just a minute or two to each session. You can also try asking your child how much time they would like to spend reading so they know their input matters. Keep in mind that they may be more okay with extending the time once their reading skills start to improve. Letting them pick the time slot when they would prefer to read is also another option.
The Space Stone
This is especially important for kiddos who do not enjoy reading time. Set the stage for success! Find a space that will make your child as comfortable as possible. It might be as simple as getting cozy in a favorite chair. Or maybe you can create a reading space with pillows and sheets, like a fort. Or perhaps you bring a special snack to your reading space to make the setting extra welcoming. Again, take your child’s input here because the more comfortable they are, the less resistance you’ll experience!
The Reality Stone
Books aren’t the only way to expose children to text. Don’t forget to provide functional opportunities for reading! Some ideas for practice include working with grocery lists, holiday shopping lists, menus, and cooking directions. Your kiddo could help you compose lists and/or check items off them as you shop. When the activity is done, provide praise for doing a great job reading. This will continue to help them build positive experiences with literacy!
The Mind Stone
It is important to stimulate your child’s mind with discussion about the texts you read. Pose comprehension questions before, during, and after reading. There are two reasons for doing this. The first is that questions allow you to assess comprehension of the story. The second is that you are teaching an important skill. You are modeling how to read a text, pose questions, and delve deeper into the content. As adult readers we know that the best books make us question everything. They are the ones that keep us thinking and guessing. To help our kids connect with texts and think “out of the box,” we most model our own questioning and thought processes aloud for them! (Make sure you check our freebie for suggestions if presenting this stone to your kiddo challenges you.)
The Soul Stone
This rule really requires you to focus in on the individual needs of your child here. It’s imperative to find what speaks to their little soul and use it to motivate them. If they love animals, read some books about animals. Sometimes that might mean sacrificing high quality literature for some commercialized texts featuring a favorite character. It is okay to make these sacrifices because we have to look at the bigger picture: Your kiddo is having a positive experience with reading! And it isn’t the only text they are exposed to because you’re using the entire gauntlet to build their skills!
The Power Stone
Remember to empower your kiddo to love reading! How do we do that? We provide frequent access to multiple kinds of text. Expose your child to information at or a little above reading level to help them constantly progress. (Only provide slightly above level text sometimes, because if it’s always too hard, they’ll be frustrated.) It is a slippery slope because if the text is too easy, they will be bored. Most importantly, empower your kiddo by giving them positive praise about their specific improvements. Some areas to consider complimenting are: decoding a challenging word, having a positive attitude, asking a great question, making an insightful inference, not giving up, reading a little longer. (We provide more on our freebie!)
These gauntlet guidelines will help you and your child to take over the universe! Which stone do you think is most important for your child’s success? Share in the comments below.
Today we are discussing a festive cooking activity for Cinco de Mayo. Although it can be messy, there are many great reasons to cook with your kiddos. They can learn new vocabulary, measurement skills, sequencing skills, and more! Typically on Cinco de Mayo, people celebrate with foods like tacos, nachos, and quesadillas. We enjoy those foods too, but many kiddos do not. In fact, all of them are a textural nightmare for children with sensory issues, or picky eaters. If your child happens to enjoy tacos, here is a post where we talk about language skills you can target during taco night.
Luckily, you do not need to love salsa to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Dessert tortillas are here to save the day! First, we’ll share the recipe. Then, we’ll discuss two different levels of language skills and how to make this activity work for your child's specific needs.
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
1/4 cup Sugar
3 Tablespoons Butter
The simplicity of this recipe makes it kid friendly and allows for practice of language skills! You could choose to enjoy the tortillas plain, or if you want a dipping component, get some whipped cream, chocolate hummus, or fruit salsa. The possibilities are endless!
Emerging Language Skills
(This is for kiddos who do not consistently verbalize, or do so using 1-2 word utterances.)
Core Words: want, more, no, get, put, on, in, I, you, eat
Nouns: plate, baking sheet, brush, tortilla, butter, cinnamon sugar
Simply create utterances ranging from 1-3 words by combining the core words and nouns listed above. Remember to reinforce your child’s attempts at communication or their imitation of utterances with praise for their efforts! Here are some examples of utterances to model:
Put on plate.
Put on tortilla
Put butter on
Put on brush
Put cinnamon/sugar on
Put on sheet
I want eat
I want more
I want butter
I want tortilla
Expanding Language Skills
(This is for kiddos who communicate using complete sentences, but need to work on building vocabulary and/or developing narrative skills.)
While helping your child prepare the tortilla chips, model the use of higher level vocabulary. Here are some suggestions:
- We are going to combine, or mix, the cinnamon and sugar.
- Dredge the brush in butter. That means we will dip the brush and make sure it is coated, or covered, in butter.
- Once we put butter on one side we will flip the tortilla to brush the alternate side. We must disperse, or sprinkle, the cinnamon sugar evenly!
- Slice, or cut, the tortillas into triangular shapes.
Describe the steps necessary for cooking the dessert tortillas as you complete the activity with your child. Make sure you model the appropriate use of sequencing words such as first, then, next, and finally. At the end of the task, ask your child if they can retell how to make the recipe. You may need to provide prompts to help them list all the steps.
How do you celebrate Cinco de Mayo with your kiddos? Share in the comments below!
Get Ready for S'More Communication
Christmas Tree Brownies