- Upon WAKING AND GOING TO BED, encourage kids to greet all family members. Remember to cue as needed for eye gaze to direct the language to each listener.
- At bedtime, consider reviewing the current day’s events and sharing tomorrow’s events as well. This can be done verbally, although use of a calendar is a nice visual representation. You can add a simplistic drawings (ex: toothbrush to represent a dentist visit; a swing to represent the playground), a letter/word for older children (ex; “G” to represent a trip to Grandma’s), etc. to represent special events on the calendar. You and/or your child can “X” or color completely the box representing the day that is ending. This will help him/her understand time concepts also (ex: tomorrow, next week, today).
- In the morning, you can remind and/or help the child to share the day’s events.
2. At FREE PLAY, reinforce your child for playing, sharing, helping, and talking to each other (family members, friends, etc.).
- Play Area Set-up: Group and store items into categories (puzzles, books, food/kitchen toys, tool work shop, cars/garage, art supplies, stuffed animals) to help your child organize him/herself (in both play and knowledge of categories to support language). Consider rotating their toys, so s/he has some toys to play with but not so many that s/he can’t figure out what to play with and/or can’t stick with an activity for long.
- Pretend /role playing with family/action figures/stuffed animals
3. In CONVERSATIONS, introduce topics vaguely to encourage your child’s participation by:
- Giving clues (ex: “Today we’re going to visit someone special. They live far away in a brick house. You play with their dog, Sam. You love to watch and feed their fish, too.”).
- Having your child gain more information by asking questions (ex: “Today, we’re going to visit someone special. . . [wait for/cue as necessary for your child’s questions]).
4. When doing an ART PROJECT, describe and/or have your child describe three or four features of the art project. For example, before or after making a spider, say “It’s an animal. It’s black. It has 8 legs and spins a web. Have your child request needed items from family members and/or stuffed animals/puppets/action figures (ex: give all the spider bodies to your child, all the spider eyes to his/her sibling, all the legs to you, and all the pictures of webs to a stuffed animal that sits close to you for role playing) to encourage him/her to make requests and respond to family members’ requests.
5. At DINNER, have your child help to pass out food items (if needed, you help hold the dish while your child talks) to family members by asking everyone if s/he wants the object being distributing. For example, “Daddy, do you want some potatoes?” Also, encourage back and forth conversations about everyone’s day. Remember to encourage eye gaze, staying on the same topic (ex: sister’s soccer game, your child’s trip to the playground, Mommy’s dentist appointment, etc.) for 3 or 4 turns, asking other’s questions about the topic, and adding a comment related to the topic.
6. Play GROUP GAMES that encourage skills in using and listening to language. Examples include:
- Simon Says – have your child and family members/toy figures (stuffed animals, puppets, action figures, etc.) take turns giving and following directions.
- Musical Chairs – have the family/toys listen for music to stop playing and find a chair (one is removed once the music is started again); consider having them share chairs with peers when there are less chairs than children…this also creates a none competitive game.
- Play Chirades – use pictures in books, flash cards, etc. to take turns acting out simple objects or actions to guess – this reinforces understanding and use of nonverbal language (gestures, facial expressions, etc.)
- Play simple turn-taking games (ex: Candyland, Memory, Don’t Break the Ice, etc.) – consider making the game shorter to keep your child’s attention for an entire game (ex: for Candyland, use only double colored cards and the pictured cards for spaces near the end of the board and ignore the rule about staying on a square with a black dot until the player draws a card of that color)
- When naming players to take turns in a game, give descriptions of each player as it’s his/her opportunity to take a turn (“The next player to take a turn is . . . a boy wearing jeans and a blue striped shirt” or “….is a yellow bear wearing a red shirt.”).
- Give conditional directions in games (“If you’re a girl with brown hair, stand up, etc.).
7. If possible, utilize SMALL GROUPS for activities. Encourage listening and talking to adults and peers in the activities. Consider this when making play dates, having parties, or planning other events, if possible. Think about how your child is with one or two peers versus three or four versus several children. In what situation or with whom will s/he be most likely to play interactively with the child(ren) independently and/or with a little support?
By Mary Jane Fledderjohn, MS, CCC-SLP/L