Summertime allows children to enjoy a well-deserved break from the classroom routine. While time off from school gives families more quality time together, it may also bring a temporary reduction in speech therapy services for those who need them most.
If your child needs some extra in-home speech therapy support for the summer, MGA Homecare can help. Be sure to ask your child’s speech-language pathologist what reinforcement you can provide between sessions to keep their speech development moving in the right direction during the break.
In the meantime, here are some ideas to give your child’s speech a little boost this summer.
1. Rocket Balloons
“I love rocket balloons! They are so fun and encourage so much language and interaction. I start by saying ready…set…GO! And then let the balloon fly. It makes a funny noise too. After a few times, I wait for the child to say GO or more, up, my turn, fast, loud, big, little, colors, etc.”
2. Planting Seeds
“Sequencing, following directions, and language processing can be addressed through planting seeds in a container. Directions can be written or verbal, and memory recall of directions can be addressed as well. Added bonus: seeing the excitement on a child’s face as they see their plant grow.”
3. Water Balloons
“Have children throw water balloons at items that begin with target sounds, or shoot water guns at specific speech and language targets all while working on specific speech sounds and improving sentence length (“I spy”, “I see”), and using pragmatic language skills (“my turn”, “your turn”). Added bonus: the water helps you stay cool too!”
4. Enrich the Reading Experience
Literacy and speech development go hand-in-hand – growth in one area will consistently support progress in the other. This summer, take your child to the public library to help them choose books at their reading level. Search for books on topics that really spark their interest. Some children thrive on fantasy fiction about dragons or fairies, while others prefer non-fiction books about insects or outer space. Most public libraries offer summer reading programs with fun incentives for kids to reach their reading goals.
Even independent readers still love to be read to. Find time each day to read aloud to your child at a slightly elevated reading level. They will benefit from hearing new vocabulary and more complex sentence structure, as well as your varied voice inflection emphasizing the punctuation and dialog within the story.
Be sure to pause at words you think they may not understand because some kids won’t interrupt to ask. If they can’t define a word for you, help them figure it out with context clues. This would also be a great way to introduce the concept of looking up unfamiliar words in a dictionary. Keep one in your reading area so it’s readily available.
If you come across some foreshadowing in the story, ask your child if they can figure out what might happen next; then, have them tell you why they think so. See if they can figure out the emotions different characters are feeling in the story. Can they tell by the illustrations, or by the text?
Remember: the quality of your reading time together is more important than the quantity of pages you finish at each sitting. Don’t be discouraged if it takes the entire summer to complete a single chapter book together. Such in-depth reading will support your child’s speech development – and reading comprehension – far better than would rushing through multiple books during the same timeframe.
5. Enhance Your In-Between Time Through Conversation
While electronics may be the fastest way to quiet an impatient child, those with delayed speech need as much practice conversing with adults as possible. Parents can profoundly influence their children’s speech development through simple conversation. With this in mind, maximize your time between errands and appointments by putting away the tablet, and making conversation instead.
Research has shown that the number of words a child hears from parents and caregivers has a direct impact on vocabulary acquisition, listening comprehension, and speech aptitude. Parent talk – meaning child-directed speech, complete with conversational turns and open-ended questions – has endless benefits for children. Conversely, words overheard by kids on the radio, TV, or YouTube do not have this same speech-building benefit.
Having silly conversations or playing games like “Would you Rather” and “I Spy” in the car while driving to and from destinations will keep them thinking, talking, and building vocabulary. Using the time spent in the lobby of the doctor or dentist office to read books aloud, or discuss the pictures in magazines, is another way to make the most of your time together.
6. Optimize Outings and Adventures
Summer is an excellent time for fun excursions with your child. Whether you’re at the neighborhood park, the zoo, or the local children’s museum, talk about the new things you’re experiencing together. You can make even the simplest activity a speech-building opportunity by staying engaged.
For instance, instead of sitting on a park bench while your child plays on the playground, get involved. Tell them, “Climb up, up, up the ladder and go dowwwwwwn the slide!” or, “Run, run, run to the tree! Who is faster?”
If there are other kids playing too, this is a prime opportunity to help your child practice conversation skills such as making introductions, asking for a turn on the swings, or inviting new friends to play. Delays in speech and language development have the potential to strain social interactions. With a parent close by to help them verbally express themselves, there is a higher chance of successful play with peers.
At the zoo, discuss the new animals you encounter. Read signs on the enclosures together to find out about natural habitats and what an animal eats in the wild. Or, at the museum, discuss the new geology facts you learn. Once you’ve finished your visit, keep their wheels turning on the way home by asking questions about what their favorite exhibits were, and what they enjoyed most about them.
With the right attitude and effort, even grocery shopping with your child can become an opportunity to enhance speech development. And at the end of the day, if you feel the urge to tuck your chatterbox into bed early to allow yourself to recharge in silence, you are probably doing everything right.
7. “Mr. Produce Head” Playing Pieces:
Not sure what to do with those ripening fruits and veggies on your counter? Try a creative spin on a traditional pastime. Build an edible Mr. Potato Head using produce and toothpicks. Here’s how:
Body: large apple, orange, grapefruit
Eyes: blueberries, raspberries
Nose: grape tomato, grape, blackberry
Mouth: petite carrot, green bean
Arms: green beans, snap peas, zucchini strips
Attachments: toothpicks (attach all parts with toothpicks)
Instructions: Talk about each body part as you put together your “Mr. Produce Head”. After it is assembled, ask your child to point to specific body parts to build receptive language knowledge. Next, let your child eat the fruits/veggies. Ask them to remove one body part at a time to ensure they’ve learned the names. If they are able, your child can tell you the part they want to eat. For example, “I want to eat the eyes” or ask them, “what are you eating?” and have them answer with the name of the body part. This will help your child with the expressive portion of learning body parts. You can do any or all of these examples depending on your child’s understanding of body parts and pending your child does not have any food sensitivities that may apply. If your child is advanced, you can move to the expressive portion and naming of parts right away. If your child is at a beginner learning level, work on pointing or identifying body parts.
Looking for more resources on speech-language development? Check out our speech milestone resource guide.