Jul 30, 2018

Bouncing Back From Brain Drain

Students outside in a park

Summer is a great time relax with friends and family, travel, and enjoy the nice weather, but sometimes children coming back to school in the fall have fallen behind in certain communication/literacy skills because they didn’t practice these skills during the summer school break. (And children who have not yet had school experience also need language stimulation and exposure to appropriate language models so they can apply classroom knowledge more quickly/efficiently once they start attending school.)

Our partner, the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), has an excellent resource for communication/literacy activities parents can do from birth-age 5 to promote age-appropriate communication/language, and literacy skills. It’s available for purchase here. You also can complete the following activities at home and “on the go” with your child by building these into daily routines to help maintain and build age-appropriate communication, language, and literacy skills!

Speech Sound Development

  • Be a good speech model for your child! Although the speech sound errors children sometimes make as they are learning to speak can sound really cute, it’s best to speak to and around them with adult-like speech sounds so they have great examples of what their speech is supposed to sound like (listening to sounds/language is how typically developing children learn to speak). You can learn about when to expect certain speech sounds to be mastered and download free speech sound homework materials from Mommy Speech Therapy at mommyspeechtherapy.com.
  • Emphasize target words in conversations containing speech sound that your child demonstrates errors with. For example, if your child says “tootie” when referring to a cookie, you could say, “Oh, you want the cookie for dessert tonight”, etc.

Language

  • When you are shopping with your child, have them describe items you need to get, name categories of items of your shopping list, or tell what the object does. If your child cannot yet describe/name categories, model this skill for them using self-talk.
  • Play “I Spy” using descriptive words (colors, functions, and other essential features of the mystery item your child is trying to guess) to help them learn vocabulary in the environment.
  • Visit a local museum, aquarium, or zoo and practice describing, asking questions, and speaking in complete, grammatically sentences to describe what you see. These types of experiences are very valuable in helping children gain world experience and help them grow their language skills!
  • Narrate your child’s play at home. Limiting questions is a good idea when having unstructured conversations (it’s not quiz time, it’s play time!). Playing functionally with toys/pretend play is hard work; narrating their play and making statements related to their actions helps them make connections between vocabulary and actions. For example, you can make comments using prepositions (location words) when they are playing with blocks/Legos (between, behind, on, up, down, off, etc.). You could also use a lot of describing words and nouns when playing kitchen (making lists of ingredients, talking about the steps to make pretend foods, saying things like “I would like a delicious cheeseburger with [list ingredients]”, etc.). Keep it fun while emphasizing new vocabulary in conversations!

Literacy

  • If your child isn’t reading yet, do a “book walk” with them before reading the story. Point out the author/illustrator, title, and the characters. You can summarize the plot while turning the pages. It’s also a good idea to point out the characters and their feelings related to events that happened in the story (and a great way to begin teaching social-emotional skills and empathy!).
  • When reading with or to your child, you can ask key questions such as: “Who are the main characters?” “What are they doing?” “Where does the story take place?” What do you think will happen next, and how do you know?” “How does [character] feel?” Keep the page open that has the answer to the question you asked so you can help them find the answer in the story if they don’t remember.
  • Read fun books that include your child’s interests. Ask your child questions, make predictions, and check predictions aloud to see if you or your child’s thoughts were on topic/correct, and summarize the story when you’re finished.
  • Point out print/logos in the environment like road signs/navigation visuals and label them (example: “This is the exit sign for where we need to turn”, etc.). This helps young children develop print awareness skills. Children will often know the symbol/label of a frequently-visited store before they know how to read (i.e. Target, Hy-Vee, your local gas station, etc.).

You can also use a language skill practice calendar like this one I have developed to work on your child’s language development skills! Activities like these are great 3-5 minute things to do to keep language skills progressing.

Additional tips and strategies for language development and stimulation from the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) can be found here. ASHA also has milestones and tips from birth-age 5 (in English and Spanish!) here.

Did you know? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has an app to track your child’s milestones and development from age 2 months through 5 years. It’s available for iOS and Android devices; you can find additional information and download the app here.