Many families, mine included, spend much of their time on the go, in the car, headed from one appointment or activity to the next, leaving minimal time, we often feel to devote to those much needed language enrichment activities our therapists keep bugging us to do. Many times, we often find ourselves passing our kids a tablet and praying for a silent, fight-free (for those of us with multiples) ride. But as parents, we also know that every moment counts and we’ve come up with a few ways to make the most out of those car trips. Hey, what parent doesn’t like killing two birds with one stone?
Who doesn’t love this classic game of sleuthing? Use your car ride to either have your child use their best descriptive language skills to have you try and figure out what they have spied. Or, you do the describing and have your child do the guessing. Keep score or play for fun to see who can spy more things with their little eye.
For those of us old enough to remember Punkie Brewster’s funky clothes, we may also remember the classic game, ‘concentration’, where someone called out a topic, such as ‘boys’ names’ and you and your friends named as many names as you could, without repeating any? Well this is a great way to help your child work on categorization and keep them amused. You can make the topic ‘blue cars’ or ‘vans’ or ‘restaurants with yellow’ or ‘animals’ or ‘things that start with a certain letter’ or anything your child will be able to point out. You can also have your child write a tally mark every time they find something within the specified category to work on counting.
There is always a place on any list for books. As a therapist, I can’t express how beneficial books are to language development. If you’ve read any of our previous blogs, such as Books for Summer, you know I discuss multiple ways to use books, from picture walks to identifying vocabulary and working on narrative development, it’s the same in the car. I recommend always having a variety of books handy for your child to ‘read’ to you as you drive. This can begin a colorful conversation about the pictures they are looking at, help with vocabulary development, build attention, help with answering questions, among many other skills. Be sure to ask your child plenty of questions to get their imagination flowing and language going.
Sight Your Sounds
For our kiddos working on articulation, you can play a variation of ‘I Spy’ where they have to find things that match any sounds they are working on. I’d keep it to a few sounds to make it simpler for younger kids. To make it more competitive, you can join in and see who can find the most in a set amount of time, or who can get to ten first.
Use the car ride to make up stories about interesting sites you pass along the way. Maybe your child saw a tree that looked like it was holding a baby. A long car ride is a great opportunity to make up a story about some elves who may live in the tree. Or you can use the car ride to help your child prepare for what they are going to experience on the trip. If you’re going camping, you can discuss what to expect. Ask your child lots of questions and give them the chance to provide as much detail as possible.
This is similar to ‘I Spy’, where you or the child chooses an object. The guesser will ask questions to try and figure out what object the other person has picked, ideally in twenty questions or less.
It is truly as simple as it sounds. Engage your child in meaningful conversations about their day. Have your child provide detailed and specific information. If you ask what they did that day and they respond, “I went to recess”, have them elaborate. Ask more questions. “What did you play at recess?” “Who did you play with?” “Where were you playing?” Regular and frequent conversations are one of the best ways to help improve language. As they say, ‘if you want to better at something, do it.’ Engaging in real-world, meaningful conversations help our kids work on conversational turn-taking, answering questions, asking questions, using descriptive language, etc.
Finding ways to begin to incorporate language into your daily routines can seem a bit tricky and intimidating at first. But once you understand, language is truly everywhere, you’ll become a master at manipulating every situation to make sure your child puts their best language forward. If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s speech or language development, please contact us at 404-606-3755 for more information!