The development of speech and language skills takes patience, practice and persistence. At the end of the day, it’s really no different than learning any other skill, such as playing the drums. Sure, taking weekly lessons with a teacher will help you learn beats and rhythm. But if you don’t practice at home, on your own time, outside of these lessons, it’ll take you much longer to master Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight.
This in a nutshell is why it’s so important that parents are collaborative participants in their child’s speech therapy. In fact, research has shown that when parents are actively involved in their child’s therapy, children progress faster towards reaching their speech and language milestones.
Simply Ways Parents Can Stay Engaged During the Summer
Call it the summer slump or the summer brain drain, but it’s a fact that many children lose a lot of the speech, language, and literacy gains they made throughout the school year. This also applies to students with social communication challenges, especially if they spend the summer glued to their phones or television screens instead of interacting with their peers.
Below I’ve included some fun and interactive games parents can play with their children at home throughout the summer (and beyond). Each of these language-based games can be used to ask thought-provoking questions, introduce and expand vocabulary, practice following directions, work on verb tense, and rehearse basic speech therapy concepts.
- Go on a Walk: There are endless opportunities to incorporate language during a nice afternoon stroll around the block (or more ambitiously, by venturing on a hike). Be sure to encourage conversation by observing the world around you and asking open-ended questions – “How tall do you think that tree is?” “Where do you think that bluebird is going?” Ask your child to name and describe certain objects that you see, hear, or discover. Or practice inference skills by playing games like “I Spy,” using a variety of adjectives such as size, shape, color, or function to describe your object.
- Road Trips: Long journeys in that car don’t have to be boring, and they present the perfect opportunity to reinforce speech and language skills. Some of my favorite games to play in the car can be practiced on a quick jaunt to the grocery store, or on an hours-long trip to a summer vacation destination:
- Guess where we’re going: Inferencing is a skill that helps kids learn how to predict what will happen next in a story, or think about how others might be feeling in a social situation. You can practice inferences before you even get in the car! Provide some clues about your destination, and see if your child can guess where you’re headed – “We’re going to a place with sand and crabs, and we’ll need to take our towels and sunscreen!” “The place we’re headed for has swings, monkey bars, and a water fountain – where do you think we’re going to be?”
- The ‘ABC’ Game: Start by choosing a category, such as “food” or “nature.” The first person has to think of a food item that begins with the letter “A.” The next person has to repeat back that word, then add a food item that begins with “B.” The next person has to repeat the “A” food, then the “B” food, then think of a food item that starts with “C,” and so on. This is a super fun and engaging game that boosts memory skills and challenges kids on their ability to alphabetize.
- The ‘ABC’ Scavenger Hunt: It’s a classic we all know, but we may never have previously considered the alphabet skills it can help with. For younger children – in pre-k, kindergarten, and first grade – you can work on letter recognition by hunting for letters that appear on license plates, billboards, and signs. You can switch the rules up to make it easier by having each person take a turn to hunt for the next letter. For a bigger challenge – each person has to find every letter in alphabetical order.
- Road Trip Scavenger Hunt: Before getting in the car, create a list of typical items you may see on the road and jot them down on a sheet of paper. These can include road signs, motorcycles, or yellow cars – use your imagination! Every time your child spots one of these items, they have to repeat it out loud and mark it down on the paper. This is a great way to practice vocabulary. To work on comparative or descriptive words, the list might include: “an animal bigger than a dog,” “something orange like a pumpkin,” or “something with stripes.” Easily turn it into an articulation task by searching for items whose name contains their target speech sounds.
- Chalk Art: Nothing screams summer like beautiful driveway masterpieces. Not only is this a fun and creative activity, but it’s a perfect way to practice nearly any speech or language skill. If your child is struggling with pronouncing their “R’s,” brainstorm, draw, and pronounce R-letter words together. You can draw different objects and take turns telling a story to practice narrative structure. Or, work on associations and categories by drawing an image (tree) and having your child draw an accompanying image (leaf).
About Leanne Sherred, M.S. CCC-SLP:
Leanne calls Austin, Texas home but studied Speech and Hearing Sciences at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and gained her Master’s in Speech-language pathology from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She has worked in pediatric outpatient clinics, schools, early intervention, and home health. Leanne is currently the President and Founder of Expresasable, an online speech therapy company that envisions a modern and affordable way for anyone who needs speech therapy to access these vital services.