It’s summertime. The days are longer, the kids are out of school, and everyone wants to be outside. But for toddlers receiving speech treatment, the warm weather needn’t mean a lapse in between-session stimulation of speech and language skills. In fact, the outdoors offers ready-made opportunities for play, and thus for rich speech interaction.
As speech-language pathologists well know, children learn through play—as a natural part of their development. And it can also be fun for adults. What better time for parents to let out their inner child than the dog days of summer?
Here are some fun things I suggest that parents do to develop and build on their toddlers’ current speech and language skills:
- Take a walk with your toddler through your neighborhood, downtown, or local park. Talk about everything you see, such as cars, trees and birds, while using simple language. For example you can say, “Look at the little red car. It’s going fast.” You can also have your toddler identify common objects you name by gesturing or pointing toward that object.
- Blow bubbles outside. Have your toddler request “more” or “bubble” to get you to blow more bubbles. If he/she is beginning to put words together have him/her say, “more bubble” or “want more bubble.” He/she can also repeat “pop” or “pop bubble” when popping the bubbles. If pronunciation is an issue, have him/her say “buh” or “buh-buh” for bubbles or “pah” for pop until he can say the word correctly.
- Swim with your toddler at your community pool. Work on receptive language skills (what your child understands) by having him/her perform simple actions on command in the pool such as jump, kick, and run. Target expressive language skills (what your child says) when jumping in and out from the side of the pool by having your toddler repeat words such as “go,” “in” and “out.” Pool time is also a great opportunity to work on identifying basic body parts such as eyes, nose, mouth, feet and hands.
- Finger paint in the backyard. Name the colors as your toddler paints them. Have him or her recognize colors by showing you specific colors as he/she is painting. Have your toddler verbally name the colors if possible. Draw basic shapes, such as circle, square and triangle as you’re painting with your child. Again, have him or her recognize the shapes by pointing and, if possible, verbally saying their names.
- Parents and SLPs can find a list of 25 toddler summer activities—and find a free Toddler Speech and Language Kit—on my blog, Talking With Toddlers. The bottom line is be creative and take it outside this summer!
Rebecca Haas is a pediatric speech-language pathologist and mother to identical twin toddlers in Jackson, Miss. She works with First Steps, Mississippi’s early intervention program, and also sees clients in her private practice Talking With Toddlers, Ltd. This post is adapted from her blog, Talking With Toddlers.