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