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Top 10 Tips to get your Shy Child to Speak

Many children thrive in new environments or situations. They separate quickly from their parents, make friends easily and are eager to participate in the classroom. Not all children are like this, however. Some children are resistant to entering a room full of children and prefer to play alone. They may also be more reserved in circle time or in the classroom. They may have a hard time making new friends and having a conversation. Below are some ways you can encourage your shy child to come out of his/her shell.

 10 Tips To Encourage Your Shy Child To Speak:

1. Encourage play groups with friends – Many children will have an easier time playing or talking when there are less people around. Ask your child’s teacher who your child tends to sit next to or who shares some of the same interests and invite them over for a play date. Start by having the play date at your house. Once your shy girlchild is comfortable playing with his new friend in your house, change the setting and go to the park. When he/she seems ready to go over to the friend’s house, let your child bring some of his/her favorite toys to make the transition easier.

2. Help your child make friends – Making new friends isn’t something that comes easy to everyone. Start by introducing your child to someone his/her own age. Try to find out what the other child likes to do and see if they share any common interests. When you make the introduction, it’s helpful to say, “Scott is your age too! And guess what? He loves dinosaurs!” This will help your child ease into the process of making friends. Once your child becomes more comfortable or at ease, you can then invite the other friend over for a play date.

3. Role play – Use some of your child’s favorite toys to role play what may happen in real life. Let’s say your child has a hard time entering his/her classroom in the morning and saying hi to his/her peers. Use dolls or stuffed animals and act out this situation. Ask your child, “What could bear say to his friends?” If your child has a hard time playing with the other kids during free time, you could act this out as well. The goal here is to get your child thinking about what he/she could say or do. The roles can be reversed as well. You play the shy child and have your child’s bear be the one to help you think it through. Additionally, when you’re out in public, model what you would like your child to be doing in social situations. When you come in contact other people, say hello and ask how they are doing. Smile too!!

4. Don’t force your child – It’s important not to label your child as shy. While it’s okay to be a shy child, if you start labeling him/her or the behavior, it negatively reinforces the problem.

5. Incorporate their interests – What is your child really interested in? Does he/she love polar bears? Have him/her bring some books, toys or pictures to the classroom. While we just talked about how important it is not to force your child to talk, provide him/her with an opportunity to share what he/she brought in with classmates.

6. Give your child some “go to” lines – Sometimes it’s just the initial communication exchange that can be most challenging. Once they’re over the “hump” engaging with another peer becomes easier. Go over some “go to” lines that your child can use when meeting a new friend or wanting to play with a friend in his/her class.

  • Hi, how are you?
  • What’s your name?
  • Do you want to play?
  • Can I play too?
  • I like your ____.

7. Read books – There are many books that talk about being shy or have a shy character in them. Some book ideas include, “Are You Shy?” “Little Miss Shy” and “Shy Spaghetti and Excited Eggs.”

8. Social stories – Social stories are a great way to talk about difficult situations. Social stories provide a child with information about situations that he/she may find difficult or uncomfortable. You can find stories online or even write one of your own. By making one yourself, you can use pictures of actual people and places to make it more lifelike.

9. Improve your child’s self-esteem – You always want your child to feel good about him/her. Have your child tell you 10 things they like about himself/herself. Provide positive feedback when it’s appropriate (i.e. “You did such a great job saying hi to your friend.”) Teachers can also be helpful in promoting your child’s self-esteem.

10. Seek outside help – if it seems like your child is more than just shy, it may be helpful to seek advice from a professional. Some red flags include being socially withdrawn, avoiding eye contact, having a tantrum or crying before going to a social situation.  Remember to stay positive, be patient and always model good social skill behaviors!

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Language Fun with Halloween

Halloween is a super fun holiday! There are so many great ways to use Halloween to build your child’s language skills. Here are a few ideas:

“Categories and Sorting” to Boost Language

After your child goes trick or treating, have them sort their candy into different categories. They could sort candy by type (chocolate vs. gummies), size, shape, color or taste.Boy in Costume Sorting Candy

“Describing” To Boost Language

Picking out the perfect Halloween costume is always fun! When talking about costumes, have your child describe what it is that they’d like to be this year. Have them talk about costume colors, accessories, emotions/feelings associated with the character, etc. Or when you’re at the store, play a guessing game. “Guess who I am thinking about…I wear a pointy hat, fly on a broomstick and can be a little scary!”

“Following Directions” To Boost Language

There are lots and lots of Halloween art projects and craft ideas. Take any project and turn it into a following directions activity. Depending on what level your child is at, you can have him/her follow 1 or 2 step directions. It could be as simple as a drawing activity. Start with a haunted house picture. Tell your child, “draw a pumpkin next to the door” or “Put a scary ghost in one of the top windows.”

Vocabulary

Halloween is a great time to work on different vocabulary words. You can work on synonyms or antonyms, definitions, grammar or even salient features. For example, take the word “spooky.”

You can ask the following questions:

  • What does spooky mean?
  • What is the opposite of spooky? What is another word for spooky?
  • Tell me something that is spooky – once they give you an object, have them tell you more about the object. For example, let’s say they say “witch.”   Then have him/her tell you what a witch has, where you find a witch, what does a witch do, etc (these are all salient features).

Reading Comprehension

There are many thematic books for Halloween. Find a book that is appropriate for your child’s reading level and work on reading comprehension skills. Ask wh- questions (i.e. who, what, where, why, why) while reading the book. You can ask text-based questions (questions that stem directly from what you read) or critical thinking questions (questions that will stimulate your child’s thought process). For example, if you’re reading about a scary character, you could ask “What makes you scared?” or “What do you do when you’re scared?”

For a list of great Halloween Books, click here.  You can read summaries and even take a look at the first few pages of the books.

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Kids & Vocal Nodules: What Parents Should Know

Approximately 4-6 out of every 100 children have a voice disorder.  Of the various disorders, vocal nodules is the most commonly cited in children.  By building healthy habits from the start, you can help keep your child’s voice healthy.  Read on to learn more about vocal nodules and how to keep your child’s voice healthy. 

What are vocal nodules?

Vocal cord nodules are small (noncancerous) growths that develop on the vocal cords as a result of vocal abuse.  “Vocal abuse” refers to boy with megaphoneany behaviors that overwork or harm the vocal cords, such as yelling, dehydration, or frequent coughing.  An isolated instance of vocal abuse might result in a soft swollen spot on the vocal cords, which can impact the sound quality of your voice.  For example, you might have a horse voice after an afternoon of cheering at a football game.  However, excessive and repeated instances of vocal abuse can eventually cause the swelling to become callous-like growths called nodules. 

How do I know if my child has vocal nodules?

There are several indicators that your child may have vocal nodules.  Vocal nodules will likely impact the sound of your child’s voice.  Indicators might include:

  • Voice may sound hoarse, harsh or scratchy
  • Child may have frequent voice breaks, or difficulty sustaining notes
  • Child may have pitch breaks during speech or singing
  • Voice may sound effortful or strained
  • Child may use an excessively loud voice
  • Child may strain their neck and shoulder muscles during speech
  • Child may experience pain in their neck or throat

What causes vocal nodules?

Vocal cord nodules are typically caused by behaviors that are harmful to the voice, such as:

  • Using an excessively loud voice
  • Emotional outbursts that include loud laughing, yelling, or crying
  • Frequent yelling, cheering or shouting
  • Dehydration or reduced fluid intake
  • Dryness, which may result from certain medications
  • Coughing, loud forceful sneezing, or throat clearing
  • Loud busts of voice or strained sounds.  This might occur when children make sound effects (e.g. explosion, bear growl, dinosaur roar, etc)
  • Insufficient breathing patterns

6 Tips to Promote a Healthy Voice

If you suspect that your child has vocal nodules, seek help from a license professional as soon as possible.  An evaluation will likely include an otolaryngologist (ear nose and throat doctor) and a speech-language pathologist.   Whether or not your child has vocal nodules, it’s important to promote a healthy voice from the start.  Here are 5 ways to encourage a healthy voice:

  1. Encourage your child to stay hydrated and drink lots of water.  Avoid caffeinated beverages as much as possible.
  2. Talk to your child about appropriate speaking volume.  Discuss appropriate times to use a loud voice, and appropriate times to use a quiet voice.  Give your child feedback and praise about their own speaking volume (“Wow, I like the way you used your inside voice when you told me that story.”)
  3. Encourage your child to find constructive ways to express their emotions.  For example, your child can clap their hands instead of yelling at a ballgame.  Or your child can verbalize how they feel, instead of screaming or shouting. 
  4. Build in daily quiet time for your child to rest their voice.  Especially if your child is engaging in prolonged periods of talking or singing, encourage them to rest their voice. 
  5. Avoid excessive whispering, coughing or throat-clearing.  Sometimes throat-clearing can become habitual, and may result from the throat feeling dry and sticky.  If this is the case, encourage your child to take sips of water.  Whispering can tire and dry out the vocal cords, so it’s best to limit whispering. 
  6. Finally, be a role-model.  Children learn by watching others around them.  Model the behaviors you want your child to exhibit, such as appropriate speaking volume and expressing emotions in a constructive way. 

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Building Your Child’s Speech & Language Skills During Halloween

As a speech-language pathologist, I love holidays for the language-rich opportunities they provide.  For starters, my kids reliably arrive to therapy sessions bursting with things to talk about, from Halloween costumes to anticipated candy.  And research supports that children learn best when they’re motivated and excited.  By incorporating speech-language goals into holiday activities, you can encourage your child’s development in a fun and engaging context.  Enjoy these 5 fun ways to build speech and language skills during Halloween fun.

5 Halloween Activities to Practice Speech & Language

1. Read a book about Halloween.  Choose an age-appropriate book with fun pictures.  By reading a book about Halloween ahead of time, you can introduce your child to vocabulary and activities they might experience at Halloween.  This activity targets: mother reading to children in the fall timevocabulary development, literacy, and comprehension.
2. Create a book or timeline about your Halloween plans.  For many children, Halloween festivities can be overwhelming.  Prepare them ahead of time by creating a book about what you will do during Halloween.
Include places you will go, things you will see, and people you will be with.  You might even include appropriate phrases your child will use at Halloween (e.g. “Trick-or-Treat” or “I like your costume!”).  This activity targets: vocabulary, sequencing, literacy, narrative language, social skills.
3. Create a fun Halloween snack.  There are lots of fun and creative ideas on the internet (example: mumified pizzas).  Write out the steps needed to make the snack, and help your child brainstorm things you will need.  Afterwards, encourage your child to share their snack with others and describe how they made it.  This activity targets: executive function, sequencing, vocabulary, expressive language, social skills.
4. Create a Halloween craft.  Crafts are a great way to work on sequencing, vocabulary, and following directions.  The internet has endless ideas for creative kid-friendly crafts.  A few of my favorites are Enchanted Learning and DLTK Kids.  Encourage your child to share their craft with others and explain how they made it.  This activity targets: sequencing, vocabulary, following directions, expressive language.
5. Make a Halloween scrapbook to remember the day.  Take digital pictures throughout the Halloween festivities.  Afterwards, print each picture out and glue them into a construction paper book.  Help your child describe what happened in each picture (Who is in this picture?  What is mommy doing?  Where are we going?, etc).  Encourage your child to share their Halloween scrapbook with family and friends.  This activity targets: answering questions, literacy, expressive language, social skills.

How Understandable Should A 3 Year Old Be? | Pediatric Therapy Tv

Pediatric Speech Pathologist details the speech and language development for a 3 year old.  She answers a question from a concerned mother about her child’s speech.

In This Video You Will Learn:

  • What ages speech should be understandable
  • When to be concerned
  • What to look out for in regards to your child’s speech

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now your host, here’s Robyn. Robyn: Hello and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I am your host, Robyn Ackerman. Today I’m standing with speech and language pathologist Meghan Grant. Meghan, we have a question from one of our viewers. Katie from Chicago wants to know, “I can understand my 3-year-old son perfectly, but my friends and strangers never seem to know what he is saying. Should I be worried?” Meghan: That’s a great question. Parents are excellent at understanding exactly what their child wants or needs even though others may have a difficult time comprehending what the child is saying. It is important to know that speech development is acquired over a range of ages. For a 3-year-old it is expected that they have mastered certain speech sounds, but at this age new sounds are beginning to emerge and develop as well. Concerns arise when the child is having difficulties progressing with the speech development and others are noticing that they are just having difficulties within various contexts as well. Some things to look out for are consonant substitutions, distortions, and omissions; essentially, if the child is leaving off certain speech sounds in connected speech or if they seem to be substituting other sounds in their speech as well. Something else to look out for as well is when your child becomes frustrated. If you see that they are becoming anxious and upset when communicating, that is usually a red flag to us. Also, watch for repetition. If you are constantly asking your child to repeat, or others are asking your child to repeat what they have said, that is typically a good time to meet with a speech language pathologist to receive further assessment. Robyn: Great. Thank you very much, Meghan, and thank you, Katie, for submitting your question. And remember, keep on blossoming. Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of mind to your family with the best in educational programming. To subscribe to our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit our website at LearnMore.me. That’s LearnMore.me.

Submit your own question to robyna@NSPT4kids.com (all questions will be answered discretely and question submitters will receive the response in an email as well).

For more on a 3 Year Old’s Development, Download our Free 3 Year Old Milestone Guide!

10 Ways to Build Your Child’s Vocabulary

Vocabulary development is a critical component in your child’s ability to interact with the world around them.  Children need the right words to effectively communicate their thoughts and ideas to others.  Strong vocabulary development also impacts listening and reading comprehension.  The more vocabulary words your child knows, the more likely they will comprehend what they are hearing or reading.  So how can parents help?

Here are 10 ways to help build your child’s vocabulary.

1. Create language-rich environments to encourage new vocabulary.  This might include a trip to the zoo, a seasonal craft, or a fun picture-book.  Introduce age-appropriate vocabulary to your child through a fun and memorable experience.
2. Use kid-friendly terms to explain new words.  For example, if you are boy with yellow ballteaching your child what  “zebra” means, avoid a dictionary definition such as: a horse-like African mammal of the genus Equus .  Instead, try a simple explanation: a zebra is an animal. It looks like a horse.  Zebras have black and white stripes.
3. Encourage your child to brainstorm their own examples of new vocabulary words.  For example, if the new word is “little”, you might encourage your child by saying “Can you think of a little animal?”
4. Practice sorting new vocabulary.  Encourage your child to describe, sort and categorize vocabulary based on various features.  You might think of “3 cold things”, “3 animals” or “3 things that take you places.”
5. Think of synonyms and antonyms.  Encourage your child to think of substitute words (e.g. “can you think of another word for enormous?… big!”) or opposite words (e.g. “What is the opposite of hot?… cold!”).
6. Give your child opportunities to practice their new vocabulary words.  If you recently enjoyed an outing at the zoo, you might print out digital pictures from the trip.  Throughout the following week, enjoy looking at the pictures with your child and remembering what animals you saw.  You might also read a picture-book about animals or zoos (“What is this animal called?” or “Can you find a tiger in this picture?”).
7. Introduce new vocabulary words ahead of time.  Holidays, seasons, and special outings are all excellent occasions to introduce new words.  For example, as Fall approaches you might choose 10 new words about Fall (e.g. pumpkin, Autumn, cool, leaves, apples, jacket, etc).  Plan a fun craft that incorporates those new words.  You might make play-doh shapes using vocabulary words, draw new words with sidewalk chalk, or search for words in a picture book or magazine.
8. Tap into other senses.  Children learn best when information is presented through multiple senses (e.g. touch, sight, sound, smell).  To tap into the various, you might have your child stomp to each syllable of new vocabulary words (el-a-phant), draw a picture of the word, or act out the meaning.
9. Encourage older kids to use strategies to remember new vocabulary.  They might keep a “vocabulary flashcard box” that includes challenging words from chapter-books, their school curriculum, or new concepts encountered in their environment.  Encourage your child to define vocabulary in their own words, and draw a picture to represent it.  You might also brainstorm root words or word derivations (e.g. run, running).
10. Avoid vocabulary over-load.  Try not to teach too many new words at one time.  For example, if you are reading a book with your child, avoid explaining every unfamiliar vocabulary word.  Instead, just stick with a few important words.   As much as possible, learning should be motivating and stimulate curiosity.   Follow your child’s lead, and explore concepts or words that they find interesting.  Look for cues that they might feel overwhelmed or frustrated.

Choosing the Right Toys to Promote Your Child’s Language Development: Part 2

With the holiday’s approaching, you may be looking for gift ideas for your little ones, or it may just be time to revamp the toy shelves.  Parents often askwhich toys will help their child’s speech and language skills develop.  Flash cards?… Baby Einstein?…Wi?

boy playing on pretend phone

In Part 1 of this blog, we talked about principles to consider when choosing the right toys for your child.  In Part 2, I’m excited to share 5 favorite “go-to” toys to encourage speech and language skills in toddlers.  Keep in mind that every child is unique, including their developmental level and personal interests. And no matter which toy you choose, the most important contributor to promoting your child’s speech and language, is one-on-one time with caregivers and loved ones!

5 Great Picks To Promote Speech in Children

1. Fisher-Price Little People Animal Sounds Farm This activity encourages “make-believe” play as children bring each animal to life.  Imitating animal sounds (e.g. moo-moo, neigh-neigh) is a great way to develop speech sounds while having fun.  This activity also lends itself to following directions, playing with others, and learning about location concepts (e.g. in, on, under).
2. Barn Yard Bingo Barn Yard Bingo is an excellent way to encourage turn-taking skills.  This activity also promotes labeling animals and colors, matching, and speech sound development.  You can facilitate and encourage turn-taking (e.g. “It’s your turn!… my turn!”) while naming animals or imitating animal sounds (e.g. “cow says moo!”).
3. Basic Vocabulary Picture Books, such as Baby Einstein’s “First Words”  Books are a great way to build your child’s vocabulary and develop early literacy skills.  For infants and toddlers, choose books with large and simple pictures, and avoid books that are too visually distracting.  Practice identifying and labeling pictures (e.g. “Where’s ball?… there it is!”), and answering questions about each picture.
4. Melissa & Doug Pretend Food  Pretend picnic foods are a great way to encourage pretend-play and social interactions.  Your child can build vocabulary and learn basic categories while they plan a picnic with family members or friends.
5. Play-Doh Play-doh (or any molding clay) is an excellent activity to foster creativity and ideation.  There are many ways to enjoy play-doh, whether it’s making different shapes, or creating a pretend-picnic.   This activity encourages interactions with others, cooperation, pretend play, and vocabulary building.  **Children should be carefully monitored while playing with play-doh, as many children enjoy mouthing/swallowing it.

Choosing the Right Toys to Promote Your Child’s Language Development

Parents often ask which toys to purchase for their child. There are so many factors to consider: learning, development, socialization, entertainment,boy playing on pretend phone and of course, fun! So how do you know which toys are best? Here are a few basic principles to consider when choosing the right toy for your child:

How do I choose the right toys to promote speech for my child?

1. Be simple. When it comes to toys, less is often more. Toys should stimulate exploration and creativity, which is often best accomplished through simple toys such as building blocks, play-doh, and pretend play.

2. Avoid toys that do all the work for your child. Even though electronic toys can be engaging and exciting, they leave little room for creativity and expanding on ideas, which can lead to passivity. I often encourage parents to limit their child’s use of video games and electronic toys, and stick with toys that require more creativity or social interaction.

3. Make-believe. Language is a symbol system that requires representational thought. For example, the word “ball” is a symbol that represents an actual object. Representational thought can be developed through pretend-play and make-believe. Additionally, pretend-play also promotes creativity, ideation, language use, and social interaction.

4. Think social. Look for toys that promote interactions with others. This might include a make-believe picnic, a fun game to share with friends, a ball to pass back-and-forth, or pretend toys such as a dollhouse or farm.

5. Create music. Musical instruments are a wonderful addition to your child collection. Pretending to play an instrument not only promotes make-believe, but it also encourages your child’s interest in music. Singing helps children learn various patterns of language, as well as learn to distinguish between different speech sounds.

6. Keep the bookshelves stocked! Books are always an excellent choice for kids of all ages. They promote vocabulary, speech development, listening, language, attention, and of course, literacy. For younger children, choose books that have large and simple pictures. Other great choices including repetitive books (e.g. Brown bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?), or rhyming books (e.g. Llama Llama).

7. Foster creativity. Consider art supplies to foster your child’s creativity. Art supplies such as crayons, sidewalk-chalk and moldable clay are excellent activities to encourage creativity in children.

8. Finally, consider safety. Be sure to read labels and age-requirements of all toys. Choose toys with nontoxic materials, and consider the developmental skills of your child. If your child is younger or enjoys mouthing things, then stay away from small objects that can be easily swallowed or choked on.

 Click Here to Read Part 2 of This Blog: 5 Great Toys To Encourage Speech

Preparing For Your Child’s Speech & Language Evaluation

Mother and Child looking up resourcesPreparing for a speech and language evaluation can feel overwhelming for a parent. It might feel nerve-wracking to have concerns about your child’s communication, as well as meeting a new health-care provider in an unfamiliar place. If you have already scheduled your child’s speech and language evaluation, then you’ve taken an important step in helping your child grow and succeed. Research has well-documented the benefits of speech-language therapy, as well as the importance of intervening early on.

8 Steps to Prepare for your Child’s First Speech & Language Evaluation:

1. Set aside time to reflect on your child’s speech-language skills

What aspects of communication seem to be difficult for your child? What aspects of communication are easier for your child? When did you first become concerned about your child’s communication? Be as specific as possible, and provide any examples you can think of.

2. Write your concerns down, and bring them to the evaluation

You may even keep a daily log of concerns as they arise throughout the week before the appointment. Your input is extremely important to your child’s speech therapist. During the evaluation, the therapist will spend about 60-90 minutes with your child. While a lot will be accomplished in that time, it’s also helpful for the therapist to learn more about how your child communicates in other settings as well (e.g. at school, at home, during play-dates, etc).

3. Write your questions down. Bring specific questions for your child’s therapist

It may be tough to remember all your concerns and questions during the actual evaluation session, so writing them down will ensure that you get your questions answered.

4. If possible, send any documents or paperwork to the therapist before the evaluation

This includes any reports you might have from previous therapies (e.g. Early Intervention, school IEP’s, etc.) Sending paperwork ahead of time gives your therapist more time to learn about your child and plan the evaluation session.

5. Print out directions to the evaluation

Reviewing directions ahead of time will allow you to plan for traffic, parking, and ensure arriving on time. Arriving late to the appointment cuts into the evaluation time, and results in parents and children feeling stressed.

6. Talk to your child about the evaluation ahead of time

Talk to them about where they will be going, and what will happen. Use positive and upbeat language to put your child at ease. Reassure your child that you will be there waiting for them, and can’t wait to hear all about what they did! If you have any questions or concerns about the transition into the evaluation (e.g. your child is unable to separate, your child has anxiety, etc), contact the therapist ahead of time to plan out the best strategy.

7. Arrive a few minutes early

This will ensure that you have enough time to submit any paperwork, and calmly transition your child into the clinic. Children rely heavily on their parents’ cues about whether or not to be worried. If parents feel stressed or anxious, the children may likely feel stressed or anxious too.

8. Finally, trust your child’s therapist

Remember that your child’s therapist conducts speech-language and feeding evaluations all the time. They are well-trained in their field, and work with a variety of children everyday. Your therapist is there for you and your child, and can’t wait to see your child grow and succeed.

If you are still unsure if a Speech and Language Evaluation is right for your child, please contact us here to talk with a Family-Child Advocate, who can help determine the next best step for you and your family!

 

10 Ways to Practice Speech & Language at the Grocery Store

You’ve got errands to run and groceries to buy. The weekly to-do’s are piling up, and there’s little time left over for educational activities and focusing on your child’s development. But did you know the grocery store has endless opportunities to practice Mom at SuperMarket with Kidspeech and language skills? Here are a few fun tips to keep your child learning while still finding time for errands.

10 Ways To Promote Speech At The SuperMarket:

1. Turn your grocery list into a scavenger hunt.

Choose items on your grocery list, and give your child clues as to where it might be. Encourage your child to cross items off the list as they put them in the cart (e.g. “We’re looking for a vegetable. Where do you think we might find it?”).

Target skills: listening, problem solving, categories

2. Play a category game.

Encourage your child to find objects based on the color, food group, texture, or temperature. For example, you might encourage your child to find “3 red things”, “2 cold things” or “1 dairy product”.

Target skills: listening, categories

3. Play “I spy”.

Give your child 3 clues about a secret item, and encourage your child to guess what the item is. For example, you might say “I’m thinking of something that is cold, it goes in the freezer, and you eat it on a cone!”

Target skills: listening, categories

4. Play the “Alphabet Game”.

Go through the alphabet, and search for items that begin with each letter of the alphabet. For example, you might encourage your child “What begins with A?… apple begins with A! Can you think of something that begins with B?”

Target skills: alphabet, letter-sound recognition

5. Plan a fun snack together.

Help your child make a list of items needed for their snack. Write down each step needed to prepare the snack (e.g. “First I will wash the celery. Next, I will put peanut butter on the celery. Last, I will put raisons on top!”). Encourage your child to share their snack with family and friends, and describe how they made it.

Target skills: executive function, sequencing, expressive language, social communication

6. Give your child special roles.

Encourage your child to listen to your directions, and find items that you ask for. For example, ask your child to “put 3 apples in the bag” or “put 1 box of crackers at the bottom of the cart.”

Target skills: following directions, location concepts, listening

7. Have a speech-sound contest.

Find items that begin with specific speech sounds. For example, if your child is learning to say “s”, have a contest to see who can find the most “s-words”. Say each s-word as you find it (e.g. “syrup starts with S!”)

Target skill: articulation

8. Practice greeting others.

When you get to the check-out line, encourage your child to greet the cashier. If your child is older, let them help with the transaction. (e.g. “How much did the groceries cost? What should we give the cashier?”). Encourage your child to say goodbye as you leave.

Target skills: social communication, problem solving

9. Let your child “be the teacher”.

Encourage your child to give you directions, and tell you where to put items. Make silly errors, and encourage your child to use their language to correct you. For example, you might put an apple on your head and ask “is this where it goes?… No! Where does the apple go?”

Target skills: expressive language, location concepts

10. Finally, have fun together!

Enjoy spending time with your child. Describe what is happening and what you see. Ask your child questions, and encourage them to talk about what they see.

Target skills: listening, expressive language, social communication