Home Speech-Language Pathology Go Play! 7 Tips to Teach Speech-Language Skills on the Playground

Go Play! 7 Tips to Teach Speech-Language Skills on the Playground

by Jennifer Tripoli
boy on slide

Autumn is quickly coming to an end and we need to take advantage of the nice weather while it’s here! The playground is the perfect setting to facilitate speech and language skills for young children. Take your treatment sessions outside and you will see all the speech and language opportunities in front of you!

  1. Power of choice. A playground offers many choices to children and, as SLPs, we know the power of choice for young children. Each time you give the child a choice, you provide an opportunity to communicate. For example: “Do you want to slide or swing?” “Swing.” Model choices at the child’s language level or one step above. For example, if the child is not yet using words to make a request, you can model the choice “swing or slide” to promote single-word utterances. If the child uses two-word phrases, you can model “slide down” or something similar.
  1. Do something. Teach verb vocabulary or action words. Children should have a variety of different word types in their beginning vocabulary—not just nouns! At the park you can model verbs and actually do the actions. Target: swing, play, slide, climb, jump, spin, run, hop, ride, walk, sit, go, yell, hang, stop, etc. Have the child tell you what he or she is doing.
  1. Learn new words. We can teach a variety of different concepts while playing at the park. Try modeling some of these concepts: colors (What color slide should we go down?), high/low (swing), bumpy/smooth (different slides), long/short (slide), slow/fast (merry-go-round), across (bridge or monkey bars), under (bridge), up/down (climbing), straight/curvy (slide), and big/little (swings/slides).
  1. Listen and follow. Incorporate concepts and direction-following skills. “Go down the blue bumpy slide” or “First touch the merry-go-round and then go to the swing.” Including multiple concepts or steps makes directions more complex. The playground can make working on goals—even tricky listening skills—fun.
  1. What do you see? Children’s early language functions frequently involve requesting their wants and needs. It’s important for children to produce comments as well. The park gives a child a lot to comment and discuss! You can model language for the child such as, “I see a bird up in the sky” or “I see kids swinging.” Facilitate comments by asking the child to say what he or she sees.
  1. Ready, set, go! For young children just beginning to use words, the park is a great place to practice “anticipatory sets.” Anticipatory sets are repetitive phrases that the child can anticipate or predict what comes next. For example, “ready, set, go” is a motivating, automatic speech task that can get kids talking. “Go” is a very powerful word, especially when followed by something very exciting or motivating.
  1. Let’s socialize. Does the child have difficulty interacting with other children? Playgrounds provide a place to work on social skills with other children who are playing. Ask the child to practice greeting other children, pose questions or initiate conversations: “Do you want to play?” or “What’s your name?”

These steps create great building blocks to future growth in speech and language. Even better you will enjoy the last days of fall while having lots of fun!

Jennifer Tripoli, MS, CCC-SLP, works at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley. She contributes to its blog on practical topics for child development. jennifer.tripoli@gmail.com 

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1 comment

Full Spectrum Mama November 16, 2015 - 3:23 pm

Playgrounds have been one of those places where I’ve become most aware of my son’s differences from the “norm;” as you point out they are also a great place to increase many skill sets.

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