School’s out, but you can support your child’s speech and language skills in typical summer activities. They provide wonderful contexts to enrich your child’s communication development and still have lots of fun! For specific guidance in skills to target, remember your child’s IEP goals and information on specific targets and strategies provided to you by your child’s SLP. If your child is still in school, communicate with his/her SLP to determine the relevancy of this content to your child and any necessary adaptations to make your child successful.
Water Balloon Towel Toss or Air filled balloon toss (good for inside rainy/hot days….players kneel instead of stand)
Divide your children (siblings, play dates, neighbors, or even you [the kid at heart]) in pairs. Provide each team with a bath towel or pillow case. Have the children grab the edges of the parachute, and place a water balloon on it. Work together to toss the balloons up and down until it falls and breaks. If someone gets wet, it’s all the more fun!
** Traditional water balloon toss is fun too in which pairs toss a water balloon back and forth until it breaks.
Remember please, natural language will occur. You’re instantly targeting working together, using social skills, and taking turns. Don’t forget, especially in the balloon toss game, you’re can use sabotage techniques by throwing your child the balloon after s/he practices
- Saying words/phrases/sentences containing words with his/her speech sounds
- Using a sentence with nonverbal skills (looking towards you, persisting when you don’t respond, gaining your attention by such means as calling you or tapping your arm) to effectively request the balloon.
- Commenting on the game or a pre-decided kid-friendly topic (ex: family vacation, visit to the pool, etc.). Remember, everyone has to make comments related to the previous comment, so that you’re encouraging back and forth conversation about the same topic.
- As you toss the balloon back and forth, play a guessing game like “I spy.” Every time a player catches the balloon, s/he either starts the game with “I spy something….” followed by a description or the player responds to the description by making a guess. The third turn will be the initial player telling whether the “guesser” is correct. Continue with guesses and responses until the object is guessed.
As always, remember to cue your child as necessary to make him/her successful…..and be sure to have fun!
Walk around the neighborhood/park/zoo/grocery store/anywhere you venture
As always, when you’re going for a walk, talk about your environment and encourage your child to. Listen to his/her comments and talk about the same things. Add information to what s/he says. Practice short back and forth conversations about it. Take turns asking and answering questions with each other. It may help to have an older child or significant other take the role of the conversational partner, so you and your child can act as a team for you to cue/model language for your child to use.
Make special treats or even an everyday lunch with your child
Kids often love to “cook” (making pudding, chocolate milk, sandwiches, cakes from cake mixes, or decorating cookies/cupcakes, etc.). Skills such as sequencing events (a precursor to story telling.…”First, we…. Then, we…. Last, we….”), using phrases/sentences, following directions, taking turns, etc. are natural targets in cooking activities.
Read, read, and read!!!
Summer is a great time to explore new interests or one related to a fun summer event (ex: a book about the zoo or the pool before going there) through books. Books give your child the opportunity to learn new words and concepts, to use words/phrases/sentences (depending on your child’s level), to answer questions, to hold back and forth conversations about each book, to practice sequencing events (retelling the story with supports as needed) and to reinforce reading skills (like moving your finger along with the words to model left to right and top to bottom orientation).
Don’t forget your library! There’s no need to spend any money there, and you might just practice communication skills with friends your child already has or one s/he meets while visiting the library!
Also, please remember repetition is very important for children. Read the same story over and over again. Your child will learn more and more from each reading of the story. Think about how you learn new information. Things like reading and doing and seeing things over and over are how we all learn! Consider something like when you learned your job or when you learned how to drive a car. You needed to purposely think about each step like checking the mirrors and putting on your turn signal. Gradually, you practiced and it became more automatic and required less thinking. The same is true for your child in learning speech and language skills.
Blowing bubbles is a great time to practice using words, phrases, and sentences to request a turn to blow or pop bubbles. Skills such as learning and using descriptive words (big, little, etc…..”I blew a big bubble”) and prepositions (in, on, under, over, etc……”Blow a bubble over the flower.” “The bubble went under the patio table.”). Also, things like turn taking, talking to peers/adults effectively, and social skills can be worked on between you and your child or between your child and another child.
Concepts like wet, dry, deep, one, both, cold, warm, hot and body parts can be reinforced by talking about them and having your child follow directions (ex: “Dry both of your arms”). Other related words are easy to model and encourage your child to use, as well (ex: swim suit, pool, water, splash, bubbles).
Play pool games like tossing a beach ball back and forth to work on interaction skills and hiding pool toys to work on directions (ex: “Find the green fish” or “Find the turtle” or “First get the turtle, then get the crab”).
Have a picnic
Whether outside on your patio or lawn, at a park, or on your living room floor, pack and have a picnic together. Consider reading one or more books about picnics with your child. Plan a menu and write a grocery list (if needed) and a packing list with your child (pictures from the internet are great for this as your child can “read” the list too). Let your child help make the food (see the bottom of page 1 for speech and language ideas). Pack for the picnic together as your child helps “read” and cross off items needed. Embed pretend play in the picnic, such as pretending to drive to a park (if you’re at home) or setting a place for and “talking to” a favorite stuffed animal, doll, or action figure. Practice conversational skills while eating. Consider having a second, third, or more picnic with other family or one or two friends to practice communication skills with peers. Remember repetition is important for children. You have to eat anyway, so why not make it more summer fun if you can!
By Mary Jane Fledderjohn, MS, CCC-SLP/L