Any day is a good day for sensory play! Many children love shaving cream and we can certainly see why. All the possible language and learning opportunities during play, make this fantastic foam a favorite among SLPs and teachers as well.
Nouns: shaving cream, table, hands, wipes
Verbs: Need/want, spray, put, draw, write, dip, squeeze, clean, wash, dry
Adjectives: wet, dry, cool, messy, neat, foamy
Since it’s Valentine’s Day, it seems appropriate to talk about the big L word.... LOVE! And also, our other big L word... LANGUAGE! So we thought we would list 10 products SLPs love to play with in language therapy. While each of these items have endless creative uses, we will limit ourselves to one reason we love them because otherwise this post would go on until next Valentine’s Day! Want more ideas? Want to share some of your own? Leave us a comment at the end of the post.
Let’s talk about the classic game, Hi-Ho Cherry-O. From the SLP point of view, it is a fantastic product because you can address many different areas with one board game. Today we’ll briefly discuss all the skills you can target during play. Warning: While one game will not run more than fifteen minutes, we cannot promise that your kiddo will not want to play multiple rounds. So prepare to slot extra time!
Here are the rules in a nutshell: The players select a fruit for game play. The options are cherries, blueberries, oranges, and apples (red, blue, orange, and green). They position their fruits in the tree/bush slots designated on the board. Each player spins when it is their turn. Landing on a number decides how many fruits are picked and placed in your basket. The first player with a full basket wins and yells, “Hi-Ho Cherry-O!” During game play, obstacles may occur. Landing on a
spilled basket means the player must return all their fruits to their slots and start over. After landing on the dog or bird, the player is required to remove two fruits from their basket.
Now let’s get to the important part! We want to highlight all the skills we can target during play:
By keeping the spinner slightly out of reach, you provide your child with a natural opportunity to ask for it. You can model simple phrases or sentences based on your child’s language skills (i.e. “my turn” or “Pass the spinner please!”) Since the game requires manipulating small pieces, your child may also need to request help if they have difficulty with the fine motor aspect of game play.
If your child struggles with this, control the position of the spinner so you can cue them naturally, with fewer verbal reminders. Remember to provide positive reinforcement for appropriate turn taking skills (I.e. “I love how patiently you waited for your turn!”).
If it is their first time playing, after each spin you may need to provide a verbal direction to your child so they know what to do when it is their turn. (i.e. You got a spilled basket. Put all your fruit back in the tree.") Provide positive reinforcement for correctly following directions.
This is best worked on in the beginning of the game when players are selecting their fruit. You can assess your child’s knowledge of colors by providing questions within the conversation (i.e. “I like cherries! So what color fruit should I play with?”).
Fine Motor Skills
Between placing the fruits in the designated slots and removing them from the basket, there are many opportunities for practicing fine motor skills during game play! Encourage your kiddo to ask for help if they are frustrated. They can also watch how you position your hands to manipulate the pieces.
This skill can be repeatedly practiced with each spin! If your child does not know their numbers, point to the spinner and label the value they landed on to reinforce this skill!
Modeling comments during game play is the best way to provide appropriate examples that your child can imitate over time. You can say things like:
Wow! Lucky spin!
Oh no! A spilled basket!
Yay! I’m winning!
Ugh! I have to put some fruit back.
This is fun!
I like this game.
If your kiddo gets particularly frustrated whenever they have an unfavorable spin, model some appropriate coping skills. After you demonstrate some useful phrases, you can ask them to try. Some examples are:
Oh no! A spilled basket is so frustrating!
I thought I was going to win! Oh well, I can take a deep breath!
I have to remember it’s just a game!
Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose.
In our last post we talked about creating a Valentine’s Day sensory bin. We specifically outlined a variety of different items that could be placed in the bin. Today we want to discuss some vocabulary that can be used during this sensory play.
Verbs: look, see, find, dig, move, push, pull, put, help, need/want
Model use of a variety of action words during this activity. Particularly if your child is searching for a specific item, you can model phrases like, “I want help.” to decrease their frustration. If you are not simply exploring the bin and have a purpose behind your play, the word, put, will come in handy. The picture above depicts our task: searching for letters to complete a puzzle. There were plenty of opportunities to discuss the proper location to put a letter. Since many sensory bin activities involve exploring the bin, you can model phrases such as:
I see __________.
Let’s move the grass to find _______.
What did you find? Let’s pull it out!
Push the puzzle piece to make it fit. (If you are doing a puzzle completion task! If not you could still, “Push items around the bin.”).
Adjectives: pink, red, white (any other color words appropriate) shiny, sparkly, bumpy, smooth, pointy.
The specific describing words you model will depend on the contents of your bin. In general, remember that modeling as many adjectives as possible will give your child access to a rich vocabulary. Just try to describe each item you or your child plays with during the bin activity.
Prepositions: in, on, under, behind, over,
Remember that this play is meant to be fun. Many kiddos have a difficult time mastering use of prepositions but can demonstrate understanding of positional words long before they can use them! For this reason you may want to skip questioning your kiddo about the locations of items during play because you don’t want to increase frustration. Instead simply comment on the location of items to reinforce the concept of positional words. (I.e. I see something under the grass. Let’s scoop it out!)
Questions: What, where
During play you can model many different types of questions with other target words, such as:
Remember that if your child is still working towards responding to questions, you can model appropriate answers to your own questions (i.e. Where is the bumpy ball? Oh, here it is! Under the pink grass.)
Most importantly, remember to have fun with it! Your child may want to use the bin in a different way than you had initially planned. That is okay! You can still provide language models and practice use of the target vocabulary above! Check out the pictures we took during play. While the Paw Patrol was not a planned part of this activity, this kiddo was much more engaged in the task when they assisted him in finding letters. If we, as parents, try to control too many aspects of play, our child may lose interest! It’s important to try to be flexible and prepare ourselves mentally for this because often our kiddo does not want to play with something the way we planned.
Many children (and SLPs) are suckers for a good seasonal sensory bin. This weekend we made a Valentine’s Day themed bin using materials we got from Dollar Tree. This post will discuss some bin basics. Our next post will outline some target vocabulary and language skills to target during the actual sensory play.
Our bin included:
Here is how we made it:
Step 1: Get a bin.
Step 2: Add different colors and textures of decorative filling and mix them well.
Step 3: Add hearts of different colors and sizes. We used glittery ones to add texture.
Step 4: Add foam letters from an alphabet puzzle.
Step 5: Mix all the bin components well!
While the grass and hearts are the base of the bin, perhaps you are not working on letters with your kiddo at this time. Depending on your particular language or literacy goals, here are some other items you could replace the letters with:
Some kiddos will enjoy playing with a sensory bin by just exploring all the components. They will feel all the items and move the pieces around. For many children, this only occupies them for a brief period of time. To get more use out of the bin you must add some purposeful play. How did we do this? We took the foam alphabet pieces out of the puzzle and hid the letters in the sensory bin. The goal of play was to search the bin, find all the letters, and complete the puzzle. This allowed for an opportunity to work on labeling and identifying letters throughout various steps in this process.
If you are not recreating this bin with letters, you can still add some purpose to the play. Looking at the suggested list of items above, you can conduct a search within the sensory bin for:
When we think of pizza, we think of something more than a cheesy, delicious snack. From an SLP perspective, a pizza making activity provides a sensory experience along with the opportunity to target following directions, vocabulary, requesting, commenting, and more! Plus, it is tasty! Our local pizza place allows children the option to make their own pizza for just $4.99. If this is something available to you, it is fantastic for parents because no bulk ingredients need to be purchased and there is no mess to clean up! But before we discovered this a few weeks ago, we have been making bagel pizzas for quite some time at home.
Materials: dough/bagel/English muffin (some bread component), sauce, cheese, pepperoni or desired toppings
Nouns: pizza, plate, dough/bagel, sauce, spoon, cheese, pepperoni (or other toppings)
Verbs: stretch, knead, pull, put, spread, sprinkle, bake, eat
Adjectives, cheesy, delicious, tasty, hot, cold, greasy, savory, crunchy
How you use the above mentioned vocabulary is going to depend on what skills you are trying to target with your child. You can't do it all at once and it is best to pick one skill to address based on your child's language level. Keep in mind that this is a great activity to repeat and once it is a familiar task, you can continue building your expectations with repeat exposures. If your kiddo is tactile sensitive, it may be best to just let them try this as a sensory experience without placing language demands on them. You can always add the language component once pizza-making becomes a routine event. The instructions below are broken down based on the target skills.
Eliciting 1-3 Word Utterances:
1. As your child completes each step of the pizza making process, model simple utterances for them, to both instruct and describe what is happening. Try to use some core vocabulary so you can allow for repeated exposure to the same words. These words are also useful during other activities. We suggest PUT ON, HELP, and MORE.
2. Start by stretching and kneading the dough. (Skip this part if you are using a bagel.) You can say, "Let's stretch!" or "Let's pull!" As the process continues, you can say, "Stretch more!" or "Help me pull." You can also say, "More help." It is good to model utterances requesting assistance so that your child is being exposed to vocabulary that will help them decrease frustration.
3. Spoon the sauce onto the dough/bagel and spread. Model utterances such as:
Help with sauce
4. Next, you will add the toppings. Begin with the cheese and then add pepperoni or any other desired ones! Some phrases to model are:
Put on cheese
Put on more
Help me put on
Put on pepperoni
5. Your child may not copy many of your utterances, especially if they are consumed with the task because it is the first time they are doing it. But revisiting this will give them other opportunities to use the utterances you modeled. Once they have done it already, you can question them at each step of the process (i.e. "What should we do next?" or "What are we doing?")
1. The first step to building vocabulary is exposing children to new words during engaging tasks. This skill is for kiddos who have already mastered requesting and commenting with simple utterances and are working on language expansion. Model some or all of the target words above. When giving directions or describing actions, do not select simple words. Avoid using "Put on" repeatedly. Instead use more specified verbs (i.e. Knead the dough. Spread the sauce. Sprinkle the cheese.)
2. There are tons of opportunities to comment on all the steps in this process. We gave you some adjective suggestions above. You can also discuss the various textures and temperatures of the ingredients before and after cooking.
3. Provide choices of words and see if your child can identify some appropriate uses of verbs or adjectives. Children can demonstrate knowledge of many more words than they actually use! Do this by providing choices occasionally, but not too often or it will disrupt the natural flow of your conversation (i.e. How can we describe this cheese? Is it shredded or grated?)
1. Before you begin, decide if you are targeting one-step or multi-step directives with your child. Then carefully construct your demands during the cooking process to fit your goal.
2. Provide positive praise when your child correctly follows directions! This will build their confidence.
3. Do not give extra support unless necessary to build independence. For example, start by simply saying the instruction. If your child seems confused, repeat the direction. If this is still not enough support, provide a visual cue, such as pointing to the next ingredient. Finally, you can intervene if they are still having difficulty.
As you can see, there are many ways to use pizza making to meet your language demands and you do not want to try working on this all at once when it is an unfamiliar task. Most importantly, do not forget to enjoy your time with your child and your pizza!
Sometimes we buy kiddos toys and they would prefer to play with the boxes and packaging from the items instead. Or our kiddos play with the toy in a non-traditional way, which isn’t how we expected them to use it...
Other times we may prepare a particular project or material and it becomes a “Pinterest fail” because it doesn’t turn out like the blog post said it would. Or the activity is just completely rejected by your child.
This blog frequently discusses activities parents can do with children to build language and literacy skills. But as therapists we know that sometimes our lesson plans do not work out. So what do we do when this happens? As parents we may want to critique our kiddos and show them the “correct” way to enjoy the activity. We are here to tell you to resist that urge. How would you feel if you sent back your food in a restaurant and the waiter returned to your table and told you how to properly enjoy the meal? Or what if he mentioned that other diners liked it, so there’s no reason you cannot? This interaction probably would not make you want to spend more time with that waiter. Am I right?
So how do we make the most out of activities that do not go as planned?
Ask yourself: Can I still practice the target skill?
If a lesson does not work out the way the therapist intended, an SLP does not cancel their therapy session leaving the data sheets blank. We always begin a session with our target goal in mind. Maybe it is to use specific vocabulary, produce a certain sound, or demonstrate a particular social skill. We must remain child-centered and not activity-centered for kiddos to be engaged. So the first step to repairing the issue is seeing if we can still work on our goals, while playing in a way that the child would prefer. We always want them to have a positive experience so that they want to continue working with us. This requires being flexible and creative sometimes.
See the picture above? You might recognize that letter board from our blog post two weeks ago related to "Literacy Lane." After a few times racing cars to letters, the kiddo lost interest in playing that game. But he had demonstrated an interest in imaginative play with an array of small figures. So keeping in mind that the end goal was practicing letter recognition and beginning sounds, we played with the figures and helped them find the initial letters of their names, within the context of the pretend play story the characters were acting out. In this case, the kiddo was still interested in learning the skill, but wanted to practice it differently. Always try to keep the goal in mind. Kiddos will learn so much more if they are engaged in the lesson! Many times this is possible, especially when the goal is just helping our child to expand on their language skills during play.
Teach about frustration management.
Sometimes, continuing to practice the target skill just is not possible. You can still teach a valuable social skill and model some appropriate frustration management for your kiddo. Often, children become angry when they are playing and peers do not want to follow their specific set of rules designed for the game. This is a great time to say something like: "I am disappointed. I really wanted to play ___________. You do not want to play this game. That is okay! We can still have fun together and I do not have to be angry." By using self talk to label feelings and describe the situation, you are modeling coping strategies and a calm response to frustration during a play scenario. Children need to be taught this skill to demonstrate it with peers.
Enjoy some bonding and playtime!
Remember that it is okay to try again another day. Sometimes we can still address the target skill. Sometimes we cannot. Sometimes we can turn the situation into a teachable moment about frustration. Sometimes we cannot. When all else fails, you can always just enjoy a fun, bonding experience through play, with your kiddo. Parents have too many responsibilities to beat themselves up over an activity gone awry! Remember to be kind to yourself! You can always try again next time!
Many of our posts are related to SLP recommended games and festive tasks for families, but it is important to remember that parents do not need a planned activity to target language skills. For this reason, we wanted to write about a mundane and frequent errand that most people complete at least once a week: food shopping. This simple chore allows for a surprising amount of communication opportunities. Let’s dive right in to making this work for your family!
Prepare for success:
We understand that grocery shopping is already a chore and no parent needs additional stress. So if your child does not usually shop with you or has limited experience going to the store, preparing beforehand will set the stage for success. You can tell your kiddo about the store you are going to visit. How much detail you provide will depend on your child's age and language level. Even simple stories help to prepare kiddos for new scenarios. (i.e. "We are going to the grocery store. We will get a cart and find all the foods we need on the list. Then we will pay and go home.) If you want some more details, our book, Lou Knows What To Do: Supermarket, prepares kiddos for this life skill.
We know it can be hard to get excited about food shopping. However, motivating your kiddo is important so that they want to be involved in the task. The goal is for your child to be an active participant in the process. There are many ways to do this, so choose what words best for your family. Some suggestions to actively involve your child can include:
-Contributing ideas for weekly meal planning
-Helping to actually write the list or suggest items to add onto the list
-Pushing the cart
-Monitoring the shopping list and checking off items
-Searching for foods and putting them in the cart once they are parent approved
-Loading items onto the belt at the checkout
-Helping to load the car or carry groceries inside the house after shopping
You can target following directions and embed a variety of language concepts into your commands in a supermarket setting. Your child's language and literacy level will determine how complex the directives can be. Here are some examples:
Prepositions (positional words): Get the eggs on the bottom shelf. They are under the blue sign. Pick the avocado on top of the pile.
Multi-step directives: Open the door and get the red carton of milk. Check the date and make sure it is in February. Then put it in the cart.
Directions with specific vocabulary: Find a green, leafy vegetable. We need a can of beans with a pink logo on it. Let's look for a new seasoning. Select the largest jar of green olives.
Since there are other people to interact with in a supermarket setting, there many opportunities to practice a variety of social skills. Keep in mind that we have to teach our kiddos expectations before they can meet success. Do not expect them to know what to do before being taught! The great thing about grocery shopping is that it is usually at minimum, a weekly occurrence. So on your first trip you may have to teach these specific strategies, but with each passing week, allow your child the opportunity for independent practice. Here are some great social skills to address while shopping:
-Maintaining appropriate body space from other customers
- Saying "excuse me" when other shoppers are in your way
- Asking an employee for assistance if you cannot find a desired item
- Saying "thank you" when others assist you
- Interacting with the cashier
Happy New Year! The craft pictured above is easy to complete and
chocked full of language and learning opportunities! Besides teaching about the year 2018, your child can also practice number recognition and formation. We chose to use craft jewels to form the mosaic, but you could use sequins, buttons, or any small craft materials you desire.
Nouns: marker, paper, glue, jewels (or whatever materials you choose to use)
Verbs: write, put, place, take,
Adjectives: sticky, wet, dry, shiny
Pronouns: I, we, you
Questions: what, where
In order to make reading fun and engaging, we need to go beyond flashcards and other "boring" forms of literacy skills practice. Look no further than Literacy Lane! While the board above is made to work on uppercase letter recognition, there are tons of different ways this could be modified to target a variety of literacy skills. You could replace the uppercase letters with lowercase letters, sight words, rhyming words or word families easily! It all depends on the type of skill you are trying to practice with your kiddo!
Materials: poster board, race track or road tape, toy cars
Note: We got the road tape at Target, but many different kinds are also available on Amazon!
How to make the board: