Support Your Child's Language and Social Skills This Summer Break
School is out. In-school speech therapy is over. Your child's speech and language skills have grown so much over the school year and you don't your them to experience a 'summer slide' and lose those gains. If you don't know what a summer slide is, check out my last blog post here. There are lots of fun, easy activities you can do with your child to keep them busy and engaged this summer.
But it is not just about the activities that you do to keep them busy. It is about the way you communicate with them while you are having fun. Make the most of the time you spend together by using language that helps their communication skills to grow! Model pro-social language for them; use language that helps them remember to think of the perspectives of others when they are socializing. For example, come up with a 'group plan' before your activity, and reference the 'group plan' throughout the day. This type of language encourages them to think of the others in the group, and not just themselves. Read more about strategies you can use with your child to support
If you are concerned about your child's speech and language skills declining while they are out of school, in-home speech language therapy is a great way to help them maintain and continue to improve communication skills. At LG Speech, we believe that children from infancy through adolescence learn best through social interactions and play, and we incorporate play into all of our therapy sessions, particularly during summer months.
Below are 5 of the best ways to support your child's communication skills this summer:
Plan a day trip!
The benefits of a day trip are innumerable. And for New Yorkers, there are just as many activities you can do with your little ones in NYC. Check out websites such as Time Out Kids each week to see a constantly-updated list of activities available throughout the city this summer. Day trips are language-rich experiences. Taking trips with your child helps them to develop 'background knowledge' or knowledge they gain from life experiences that is critical for reading comprehension.
Before you take the trip..... Debate the pros and cons of each location or activity. Decide as a family where to go, teaching your child how to compromise, take the perspectives of his family members, and be flexible if the vote doesn't go his way. Come up with a group plan for the day, and discuss why it is important for everyone's safety and enjoyment to follow the group plan.
During the trip.... Put those electronics away! Play road-trip games such as 'eye spy' or 20 questions. These games support your child's vocabulary, listening comprehension, attention, and conversation skills. Throughout the day, have conversations about what you see, what you enjoyed, and what you'd like to do next to support his expressive language and social communication skills.
After the trip... Discuss your 'highs and lows,' write a Facebook post about it to share with your friends and family, or make a journal or scrapbook entry about it together. These activities support your child's narrative and descriptive language skills.
Pack a Picnic
Before the picnic... Create a shopping list and then food shop with your child. Encourage her to think of the types of food that her siblings or family members love to support her perspective taking skills. Pack for the picnic together! Create a checklist and have your child check off each item as she packs it into the basket. Have her create a map of where to go, and then find the perfect spot for your blanket. These activities will support her executive functioning skills.
During the picnic.... Have your child practice thinking about others by making sure each person has all the materials they need: cups, plates, forks, spoons, napkins, etc. before you all eat together. Have an 'unplugged' picnic, where the only time anyone uses an electronic is to take a photo. Instead of being on your phones, play games and have a conversation.
After the picnic.... Add another special entry to that journal, scrapbook, or Facebook post!
Make a summer snack!
Cooking together is one of the best activities you can do to support your child's communication skills.
Before you cook... Read the recipe together, and have your child create a list of ingredients and materials you need. Food shop together, but instead of leading him to each aisle and pointing out the ingredients, walk slowly through the store together and let him 'think with his eyes,' to figure out where each ingredient may be located. If he can't find an ingredient, point out similar products by saying: "I notice there is flour in this aisle.... I know sugar is almost like flour. I wonder if the sugar is over here."
While you are cooking.... Ask your child to make a 'smart guess' or an inference about what the first step might be. If he is unsure, ask a leading question such as, "I'm not sure of the first step either. Can you think of a way for us to find out?" This type of question supports his ability to make inferences and predictions. Read and follow the recipe together, making smart guesses as you go!
After you're done cooking.... enjoy your summer treat while you practice your conversation skills together!
Play with Chalk!
Before you draw... read a book together to support literacy skills when she's not in school this summer.
While you draw... Ask your child to draw her favorite scene from the book you just read. Together you can imagine and draw an alternative ending or add a twist to the story. This activity supports her narrative skills and helps her create a shared imagination.
After you draw... keep the drawings on your sidewalk/driveway for a few more days, and chat with your child about your drawings whenever you pass by. Come up with a group plan for what you'd like to draw next! This supports her conversation skills, memory, and imagination.
Have a game night!
Before you play... Invite friends over, or include all family members in the game so your child can practice thinking about others as he plays. Have your child help set up the game, which supports his executive functioning skills.
Discuss the expected and unexpected social behaviors for playing games with a group. For example, it is unexpected to be rigid and only play what you want to play, to have a big reaction if you lose, or to cheat so you can win. It is expected to be flexible and find a compromise with your friends, to have a calm reaction if you do not win or if you miss a turn, and to play by the rules.
While you play.... Play games that support language. Games for younger children include Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Zingo, Headbandz, and I Can Do That card game. Games for older children include Apples to Apples, Family Feud, Cadoo, Guess Who, and Heads Up. Model language for your child by describing each turn as you go. For example, as you play Chutes and Ladders, can say something like, "I rolled a 3. That means I move 3 spaces, and go up the ladder!" Reinforce your child for good turn-taking behaviors.
Model for your child expected social behaviors for playing a game. Say pro-social comments such as, "well this isn't the game I wanted, but I'll be flexible and play the game the group chose so we can all have fun," or "I hate when I have to go down the chute, but it's not a big problem so I won't get upset."
After you play... Have your child work with his friends to clean up the games. Discuss your favorite parts. Make a plan to do it again in the future. These skills support social communication, executive functioning, and expressive/receptive language skills.