7 Ways to Facilitate Language on the Playground

04_Emma and Evan

By Jennifer Tripoli

It’s almost summer and the playground is a setting where there are many of opportunities for speech and language development. Language learning should occur not just during structured tasks, such as at a table or inside a therapy room, but within activities of daily living for a child! The best learning often occurs during multi-sensory activities and free play activities. Take advantage of the nice weather — get outside and play!

1. Power of choice!
a. Give your child choices or have them tell you what they would like to do. Choice making is key for communication as it gives the child some control, helps with decision-making, and can teach specific vocabulary. It also helps with language development as the child hears the model and can imitate more easily. Each time you give your child a choice, you are offering an opportunity to communicate.

b. There are many activities for children on a playground such as sliding, swinging, climbing, etc. Have your child tell you what they want to do. For example, “Do you want to slide or swing?” “Swing.”

c. Model choices at your child’s language level or one step above. For example, if your child is not yet using words to make a request, you can model “swing or slide” to promote single word utterances. If your child is working on using two-word phrases, you can model “more swing or all done swing” in order to push the child to the next language level.

2. Do something!
a. A playground is the perfect spot to teach verb vocabulary or action words. As we know, children should have a variety of different word types in their beginning vocabulary (not just nouns!). What better to place to teach verbs than at the park? At the park you can model verbs and actually do the actions! Verbs that can be targeted at the park include: swing, play, slide, climb, jump, spin (merry-go-round), run, hop (across the bridge), ride, walk, sit, go, yell, hang, stop, etc. Have your child tell you what they are doing!

b. You can also make this a receptive language activity (language understanding). As the child does a specific activity, model the correct verb or ask your child to do the action you say.

3. Learn new words!
a. We can teach a variety of different concepts while playing at the park! This is a great opportunity to teach different or more advanced concepts as well as specifically descriptive concepts such as colors, shapes, textures, quantity, etc. Concepts that can be used at a park: colors (What color slide should we go down?), high/low (swing), bumpy/smooth (different slides), long/short (slide), slow/fast (merry-go-round), across (bridge or monkey bars), under (bridge), up/down (climbing), straight/curvy (slide), big/little (swings/slides)

4. Listen and Learn!
a. Incorporate concepts and direction-following skills. Have your child do what you say, e.g. “Go down the blue bumpy slide” or “First touch the merry-go-round and then go to the swing.” You can make these directions more complex by adding multiple concepts or steps. Listening skills are often difficult for a child to work on, but the park can make this fun!

5. What Do You See?
a. Many times children’s first language functions are for requesting their wants and needs. It is important for children to produce comments as well. The park gives a child a lot to comment/talk about! You can model language for your child such as “I see a bird up in the sky” or “I see kids swinging.” Facilitate comments by asking your child to say what they see.

6. Ready, Set, Go!
a. For young children who are just beginning to use words, the park is a great place to practice “anticipatory sets.” What are “anticipatory sets?” Anticipatory sets are repetitive phrases that your child can anticipate or predict what comes next. For example, “ready, set, go” is a motivating, automatic speech task that can get kids talking! “Go” is a very powerful word, especially when followed by something very exciting or motivating. For example, at the park you may have your child on the swing. You would stop the swing and tell your child “Ready, set….” and wait for your child to say “go” or even vocalize an approximation of “oooo”. After many repetitions and waiting on your end, you will be surprised how quickly “go” will be added to your child’s vocabulary.

b. The key here is waiting. Give your child a chance to respond. If they don’t respond, continue to model “go”. Keep practicing and consistency will come!

7. Let’s Socialize!
a. Does your child have difficulty interacting with other children? Playgrounds are a place to work on social skills with other children who are playing.
b. Have your child practice greeting other children or asking questions/initiating conversations (e.g. “Do you want to play?” or “What’s your name?”)

Want to learn more ideas for ways to facilitate speech and language? Visit our Pintrest page below or visit www.EasterSealsDFVR.org!

Jenn Tripoli

Jennifer Tripoli, M.S., CCC-SLP is a licensed and ASHA certified Speech Language Pathologist who enjoys working with the pediatric population. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Speech Language Pathology from Marquette University in 2008 and her Masters of Science degree in Speech Language Pathology at Rush University Medical Center in 2010. Jenn has been working with the pediatric population at Easter Seals DuPage since 2010 where she has learned to work with children with a variety of different diagnoses. Areas of interest include: Childhood Apraxia of Speech, expressive language delays, language processing, articulation/phonological disorders, orofacial myofunctional disorders, sensory based feeding, Autism, and use of technology (ipad applications) within therapy sessions. Jenn’s continuing education experience include training in: Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), Sequential Oral Sensory Approach (SOS), the Overland SensoriMotor approach to feeding, auditory processing, executive dysfunction, respiration, and use of Ipad Applications within therapy sessions. Jenn has her Early Intervention credential for treating children birth to 3 years of age and is a part of the Speech and Language Evaluation team at Easter Seals DuPage.

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