Toddler Talk in the Park!
by Kristen Lang, teli Speech Pathologist
Now that the weather is changing, you and your little ones will be taking trips to the park (or your own backyard!) to play on the swing set. There are many opportunities to work on communication during play on the swings and slide. Check out these communication strategies below:
Your little one might be naturally making sounds already. A trip down the slide might elicit a delighted “weeeee!” If your child is not yet making these kinds of exclamatory sounds then this is the perfect time to model the sound and encourage your child to repeat it back to you. The more fun you make your sounds, the more likely he is likely to try and repeat it back to you! Here are examples of sounds and simple words that you can model during this play:
“Up! Up! Up!” as your child walks up the stairs to the top of the slide.
“Wee!” as they go down the slide or when you push him on the swing.
“Whoa!” as you push him faster on the swing.
“Uh-Oh” or “stop” when you make the swing stop.
“Go” as you give him a push on the swing.
“Stomp stomp stomp!” as you walk across the grass.
Anticipating What Comes Next in a Phrase
These are opportunities to model a phrase and have your child fill in the missing word. Your child will “anticipate” that you are going to pause and then an action will follow. For example, when you are getting ready to push your child on the swing say “ready – set – GO!” and then give him a push. On the second time around you will say “ready-set” and then pause. Encourage your child to say “go” or make a gesture or sound to fill in the phrase. If he doesn’t say anything, that’s ok! Keep modeling the phrase. The repetition will help your child. Here are a few other anticipatory sets that you can try:
Up, up, up…..wee!
Up, up, up…..down!
Get creative with these! You can also sing simple songs that go with the action. (Sing this to the tune of “Wheels on the Bus”) When (child’s name) is on the swing he goes up and down. Up and down. Up and down. When (child’s name) is on the swing he goes up and down until it’s time to….STOP!
Giving your little one a choice is another great strategy for teaching communication skills. Children not only feel empowered when they have a choice, they also learn how to communicate basic wants and needs and improve their vocabulary. Here are some ways that you can build choices into your outdoor play:
– Do you want to swing or slide?
-Do you want me to push you fast or slow?
-Do you want a big or little push?
-Do you want more swing or are you all done?
If your child is not yet talking, then you can work on nonverbal communication by providing a gesture or teaching him how to point to the item that he wants. If your child is starting to use single words you can then expand on his answers (e.g. Child says “swing” and you model “swing please” or “more swing.”)
These are just a few things to try as you venture outdoors with your toddler. Be creative and always keep it fun!