Winter isn’t quite ready to leave yet. That means a lot of time stuck indoors with the kids and we need to find fun ways to occupy their time. The good news is that practicing speech can be done just about anywhere with minimal prep time and clean up required. Here are some fun ways to practice speech while the weather keeps you indoors.
1. Speech Sound Scavenger Hunt: Go through the house and find as many items as you can with your child’s target speech sound. Have your child practice saying each item they find in a short phrase (ie: I found a ____). You can even take pictures on your phone of these items and print them out to make a short book to practice.
2. Speech Sounds with Playdough: Have a list of words containing your child’s target speech sound. Have your child create one of the items from the list out of playdough. You then have to guess what your child has created. You can then switch roles with mom or dad creating words out of playdough and your child guessing the target word. Only accept an answer as correct if your child uses their “good” speech sounds.
3. Speech Sound Story time: Go through picture books and have your child point out words and pictures containing their speech sound. Have your child practice these words in short phrases (ie: I see a ____ or Look there is a _____).
4. Speech Sound Flashlight Hide and Seek: Place words or pictures with your child’s target sound on the walls throughout the house. Turn off the lights and have your child “seek” the pictures hung up throughout the house by using their flashlight. Have your child say each target word when they find it.
5. Speech Sound Pictionary: Have your child draw a picture of a word containing their target speech sound. Guess what your child drew, make sure you enunciate your child’s target speech sound. Then switch roles and draw a picture with your child’s target speech sound. Have your child guess what you have drawn. Only accept an answer as correct if your child uses their “good” speech sounds.
App Name: Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame
Why We Love It:
This beautifully designed app helps children learn to use deep breathing strategies to self calm. The app introduces a Sesame Street monster who faces real life scenarios such as having trouble tying his shoes or impatiently waiting in line. The narration uses a variety of words to describe the emotions and makes observations about the monster’s body language as well. The focus of the app is to teach the child to take three deep breaths, then think of multiple solutions to the problem at hand. The child chooses one of the options and the monster acts out the solution. The language is simple and the steps are repeated to help reinforce the lesson. The animation is high quality and visually engaging. We love that the monster comes up with more than one possible plan, however, one scenario involves asking a teacher for a hug, which may not be appropriate in a school setting. Overall though, this app is a powerful tool for teaching an important skill.
Why Kids Love It:
The animations are clear and beautifully presented which keeps the kids visually engaged. Also, while the monster is “thinking”, the child gets to pop bubbles which helps keep their attention on the app. Although it is unlikely that your child will independently pick this app to play in their free time, with some guidance from you they can pick up a new skill to help them succeed in day to day activities.
Available: iTunes FREE
Between soccer practice, karate, homework, therapies, PPT meetings, family commitments, home exercise programs, sensory diets and swim lessons, are you feeling like every waking moment is scheduled? It can be hard, but try to find a few minutes to play just for fun. Give your child a break from critique of their grasp patterns, articulation or other therapy objectives, get down on the floor or go outside together (without technology!) and just play. Feeling stuck for ideas?
Here’s a list of 75+ quick and easy activities to play, from Parenting Magazine.
Another great resource is Unplugged Play by Bobbi Conner. This book is full of 710 screen-free, cord-free, developmentally appropriate and fun activities for toddlers, preschoolers and elementary school aged children.
Cooking with your child is a great way to teach about food and nutrition, math skills and science. Mixing, chopping, pouring and decorating are all opportunities for children to work on arm and hand strength as well as fine motor dexterity. Visual perceptual skills are used when searching for ingredients on a spice rack or in the refrigerator. Emerging readers can look for sight words on recipes or product labels. Cognitive skills such as sequencing a multi-step task, prioritizing tasks and managing materials are inherent in cooking activities. And perhaps most importantly, cooking together provides you the opportunity for quality time as a family.
Is your child reluctant to try new foods? Don’t worry; part of typical child development for children ages 2-6 is to avoid trying new foods. Talk with your pediatrician if you are concerned that your child’s picky eating is impacting their growth. Your OT may be able to help you assess your child’s food preferences and identify trends in texture, color, temperature or flavor, and suggest new foods to introduce. With that said, picky eaters should still be invited into the kitchen. Just being near a food provides visual input, introduces the child to the smell, how a food breaks up: Does it crunch? Does it mush? and more. Participating in any part of meal preparation is a step towards accepting new foods.
Wondering where to start?
Here are some kitchen activities for different age groups. Keep in mind these are general activities; some children may be ready for “older” skills and others may need to master “younger” skills before moving on.
- 2 year olds are developing control over arm movements and using two hands together. Invite them to participate in scrubbing fruit, wiping tables or counters, tearing bread or lettuce, dipping vegetables and pouring pre-measured dry ingredients into a bowl.
- 3 year olds are developing improved hand control and can start pouring small amounts of liquids, mixing soft batter, kneading dough, shaking pancake mix, learning to spread (it will be messy!), placing raisins or other toppings and sorting ingredients by color.
- 4 year olds are gaining hand and finger strength. Your child can help by peeling an orange after it is started, squeezing fruit, mashing soft fruits or vegetables, unwrapping packages, pressing cookie cutters into dough or bread, helping to count and measure, helping to gather ingredients and pressing number buttons to set a timer.
- 5 year olds are developing more mature finger dexterity and cognitive skills. Have your child assist with measuring ingredients, grating long carrots or large pieces of cheese (with close supervision), using an egg beater, cutting soft ingredients with a dull knife and decorating with icing or other ingredients.
- Older children can practice math skills by doubling a recipe, figuring out how many servings a recipe will yield, and cutting a tray of brownies or bars into a given number of portions, etc. They can take ownership of a meal by planning and choosing recipes.
Things to remember:
- Children always need supervision in the kitchen.
- Teach your child to wash his hands before cooking or eating and after touching raw eggs or meat.
- Expect spills and messes.
- Expect the task to take longer than usual.
- Repeat directions as needed.
- Don’t forget to have your child help with clean up.
If your child is on a special diet, snack recipes can be a challenge. Here are some recipes put together by a speech pathologist, including some which are gluten or dairy free
For more articles like this, visit Penn State’s Better Kid Care website.
App Name: StoryKit
Why We Love It: This app allows you to customize a story utilizing pictures you have taken from your iPad or iPhone. The types of stories that can be used are sequential stories that incorporate specific steps needed to complete tasks, review of past events to share with others, and pictures within the story that help teach specific concepts. An example of a sequential story would be showing the steps needed to brush teeth. The child can be the “actor” for the story and can then utilize appropriate expressive language skills to describe the story. An example of reviewing past events would be to take pictures of your child at the event. The child can then share what happened by describing the pictures and showing them to another person. This app can also help teach specific concepts by taking pictures of specific verbs in action, prepositions (i.e. the book is on the table and the blanket is on the bed).
Why Kids Love It: They get to be the “star” of their own personalized books. Children can make greater connections to the activity because they have such a big role in it’s creation.
Available: iTunes FREE
App Name: Relax Melodies HD and Relax Melodies Oriental HD
Why We Love It:
These apps are some of the best white noise apps we have found. While there are many white noise apps on the market, it is rare to find a free app that allows you to layer sounds together. These apps have relaxing melodies that can be paired with sounds from nature, such as ocean waves, birds chirping or underwater bubbles. Both apps are supported by ads, however premium versions, which feature ad-free screens, timers and additional sounds, are available. Many children who are easily distracted by auditory input may benefit from using a white noise app with a steady, constant level of auditory stimuli while completing work or while falling asleep. We also use these apps when creating a quiet, cozy place for a child who is dysregulated.
Why Kids Love It:
These are not apps that children at our clinics tend to specifically request, however we utilize these types of apps as tools in the child’s sensory diet. Just as vestibular and proprioceptive activities are often components of a sensory diet, the auditory system is a powerful tool to help a child become more regulated. Older children enjoy choosing sounds and music to layer and experiment with how some types of sound are calming and other sounds are alerting.
Available: iTunes: FREE; Premium Edition $0.99
Android Market: FREE; Premium Edition $2.99
App Name: Dial Safe Pro
Why We Love It:
This is a great (free!) app to teach phone skills starting from the very basics how to hold a phone, dialing and hanging up, when to call 911, and safety when talking to strangers on the phone. There is a customized memory challenge where you can input your home phone number or any other number your child needs to memorize. Perhaps the best part of this app is the practice and challenge levels that actually walk your child through the steps involved in dialing a number and talking to someone at home or to a 911 operator. The buttons are large and easy to tap correctly and the sound effects are realistic. The app is narrated by a woman with a clear, friendly voice, and the script reads much like a social story. This is a great tool for children learning phone skills and phone safety.
Why Kids Love It:
The narration is clear and the visuals are simple without being too childish. This is not an app that kids are going to beg to play, but once they start using it they tend to stay engaged.
Available: iTunes FREE
App Name: Toca Kitchen
Why We Love It: This app provides great stimulation for expressive and receptive language skills for children ages preschool through lower elementary (2nd or 3rd grade). The player can choose a character to feed, and then can choose a food item from the “refrigerator”. The next step is to cook the food using a microwave, pot of boiling water, or frying it. The child can then chop the food using a knife on a cutting board or by placing it in the food processor. The language that can be elicited revolves around talking about type of food and food categories (i.e. “a lemon is a fruit” and “the sausage is a meat”), how to prepare the food, and whether the character enjoys the food. Each character has his/her own preference and will provide nonverbal information regarding whether he/she likes the food.
Why Kids Love It: They can choose a variety of foods, even hay, to give to the characters. Most children love being able to cook the food and feeding it to the characters. The sounds the characters make help maintain the child’s interest.
Cost: App store: $1.99; Toca Kitchen Monsters is free