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!