Do you ever wonder what happens after you assign practice exercises to families? Do they really get done? Did the training and modeling you showed really carry over?
Practicing carryover exercises is tough. Life gets in the way. Even if speech-language pathologists create simple and functional exercises for families’ everyday lives, finding the time to do them can be challenging for parents. This tension between the need to practice and limited time got me thinking about approaching activities for carryover from a different angle.
I reviewed research on how children learn and come up with some ideas to make carryover easier:
- Parents are key: Kids learn more when their parents play with them and guide their interactions.
- Conversations are a must: Kids end up speaking more fluently and clearly when parents learn how to keep conversations going.
- Asking questions is critical: Kids improve their vocabulary and verbal reasoning scores when they are asked “wh” questions.
- Exaggerated prosodic speech works: A sing-song approach to talking while playing is dynamite for language development.
- The type of toy matters: Classic toys, like puzzles, blocks, dolls and meal sets improve visuospatial skills, social-emotional-bonding abilities and overall communication skills.
All of the research I studied says children between the ages of birth and 3 develop better overall when they have dedicated playtime with their parents. It also showed that guided play—as opposed to joint play with peers or open-ended play—resulted in increased IQ scores, better outcomes for later language and school success, and stronger comprehension skills. In addition, playing with the right toys—blocks, puzzles, trains—and narrating playtime improved skills like verbal reasoning, visuospatial planning and deductive reasoning.
When adults guide playtime with their kids by asking questions and conversing with them, they create conversational duets, which help stimulate imagination and creativity. Using a sing-song voice can help their child pay better attention and repeat words naturally, which improves their speech and language. And asking more “wh” questions helps kids think through problems by broadening their minds and making them think more flexibly.
It’s important for parents to set aside time each day to play with their kids, even if it is just for 10 minutes. Reading studies and sharing results with parents helps me convince them how important finding time for guided play and conversations is for helping their kids reach target goals. Given the time crunch and pressure parents feel, I realize the most important message to deliver is “playtime” can look like a wide variety of activities. Playtime can range from sitting down to play with blocks or puzzles to performing a chore together, like drying the dishes, so long as parents keep the conversation going and really listen to their kids. If we can deliver this message, then we fuel parents with easy, practical and insightful tools based on real evidence to help their little ones.
Frida Matute, MA, CCC-SLP, is a pediatric SLP at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York. She also has a private practice in Manhattan, Indy Speech Services, and is co-founder of Indy Talk Shop, a creative educational toy startup. Frida@IndyTalkShop.com