By: Katrina Wasserman MA, CCC-SLP
Targeting speech and language goals at home do not always need to be done as a separate activity. As busy parents know, finding even 20 minutes to focus on speech and language activities with little ones may be very difficult.
One way to build language skills is to embed their language targets through daily routines. Using various strategies during routines will provide language stimulation in a naturalistic setting while you are accomplishing everyday tasks.
Mealtime occurs three times a day. You can start by focusing on one meal that you may have a little more time with and then incorporate the strategies at all meals. First, it is best to start in a distraction-free zone. Turn off the television, make sure your phone is out of sight and chose one attainable goal to target.
- Talk about food! Label what you are eating by naming the foods on the plate. Describe the food’s color, taste, and temperature. This is a great way to introduce vocabulary such as sweet, salty, crunchy, and soft. Using tableware provides an opportunity to discuss object function including, “You cut with a knife, drink from a cup, scoop with a spoon.”
- Mealtime is also great to work on requesting. Give your child two choices and have them point to/request using one word, or multiple words. If your child requests by saying “apple” you can respond and say, “Yes, you want the apple.” This strategy is known as scaffolding and is mapping in future goals.
Bath time at the end of the day is a great time to reconnect with your child. Since a lot of children love bath time, spend an extra 5 minutes letting them play in the tub while you talk to them. It is easier to target goals if your child only has a few toys in the bathtub so they engage with you more. My personal favorite bath toys are two plastic cups!
- Learn about body parts! You can have your child “wash” their own body parts. Make a game out of washing their nose, tummy, legs, feet, etc! They can also label the body parts you are washing.
- Bath time is also a wonderful time to practice action words! Label your child’s actions as they are scooping, pouring, scrubbing, or washing.
Getting dressed may seem like a chore, but if you turn it into a game, it might be something you and your child look forward to!
- Play Peek-A-Boo! While dressing your child play a game of Peek-A-Boo with them. When you are putting on their shirt, pretend they are hiding. Once their head pops out, say, “Pee-A-Boo!” You can have them play peek-a-boo with their hands and feet. You can say “Uh-Oh! Where is your hand?” and when it pops out of the shirt, say, “Peek-A-Boo!” This almost always results in lots of giggles!
- Give choices when it is practical! Hold up two shirts and let your child pick one. You can describe the one they pick. For example, “Oh you like the GREEN shirt! It has a DINOSAUR on it. The dinosaur says “ROOOAAARRRR!!”
- Describe how the clothes go on, for example, shirts go on over your head, you have to pull your pants up, and the hat goes on your head.
- It’s also a great opportunity to look out the window to help decide what to wear. If it is raining, make sure to talk about raincoats and rain boots!
Bedtime is the perfect time to read stories with your child!
- While reading, have your child point to the pictures or characters in the story. You can ask your child simple WH questions about what is happening in the story or the pictures. Ask them to retell the story using their own words. You can do this after one page or after a few pages. Ask your child what they think will happen next in the book. Seasonal and holiday books are also great for introducing vocabulary.
- Before bed is also a wonderful time to talk to your child one-on-one about their day. Bedtime is a great way to spend some quality time with your child and develop language skills.
Incorporating these strategies and working with your child’s Speech Language Pathologist can help you develop a language-enriched environment. The two most important things you can do to encourage speech and language development are
- Reduce outside distractions like the television, technology, and even passive toys (like the toys that you press buttons and they sing/light up), and
- Increase parent interactions through talking. Talk to your child about everything! Everything you see, what you are doing, how you are feeling in a situation, and they will be immersed in language learning all day!
If you have more questions about incorporating speech and language therapy in everyday activities or would like to set up an appointment with our team, let us know!