Speech & Language
Here is a list of different activities that can help support continued speech-language development. We hope you enjoy exploring them!
- Abstract & Figurative Language
- Sequencing and Following Directions
- Vocabulary, Word Retrieval and Memory
- Social Skills and Problem Solving
Abstract & Figurative Language
- Idiom Jar
Write an idiom on a small strip of paper and place it in your "Idiom Jar". Have your child pull one strip of paper out each day. Read and discuss the meaning of the idiom with your child. Review the idioms at the end of the week. Devise some sort of a hand signal that you and your child can use to alert the other that an idiom has been detected. This will help your child listen for when and how idioms are used in his environment.
Here are a list of book titles that will help develop awareness and comprehension of figurative language. Your local librarian can probably assist you with more if you exhaust this list.
- Piggybook by Anthony Browne
- A Chocolate Moose for Dinner by Fred Gwynne
- The Sixteen Hand Horse by Fred Gwynne
- The King Who Rained by Fred Gwynne
- That's Good! That's Bad! By Margery Cuyler
- Six Creepy Sheep by
Judith R. Enderleand Stephanie G. Tessler
Sequencing and Following Directions
- Read, read, read!
Choose books that focus on a sequence of events. Ask your child questions targeting what happened first, next, last, etc. After the story ask your child to retell the story. Remind him or her to include sequence words such as "first, next, after, before, then, last, finally". Here is a list of some books that involve sequencing.
- Ah-Choo by Mercer Mayer
- I Unpacked My Grandmother's Trunk by Susan Ramsay Hoguet
- The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant
- Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie de Paola
- Daddy Makes the Best Spaghetti by Anna Grossnickle Pines
Recipes are sequential and can help development of measurement and vocabulary skills. Kids love to help out in the kitchen, as well as enjoy the results! Have your child assist you in following a recipe to make a special summer treat. He or she can practice sequencing skills by retelling the procedure to another family member or friend. Try fruit smoothies or beach pudding cups (vanilla instant pudding, crumbled vanilla cookies for "sand", gummy sharks/fish, and a little umbrella). This activity can also support development of measurement skills and quantitative concepts (more, less, equal, etc). The local library may have books for more cooking projects with your kids.
Mark important events on the calendar (i.e. birthdays, holidays, vacations, playdates). Ask your child questions about the information on the calendar and vary the complexity of the question based on your child's age and ability level. (i.e. How many days until we go to Disney World? Which one comes first: your birthday or Dad's? When did we go to the beach? What happened yesterday/the day before yesterday?). Have your child summarize the important events scheduled for the week or month using sequential terms (i.e. today, tomorrow, yesterday).
- Barrier Games
These activities are great for developing listening skills, following directions, expressive language and social-pragmatic language. You can use two matching colorform sets or blank pieces of paper and crayons/markers. Explain to your child that you will be creating matching pictures together. Place a barrier between the two of you so that neither of you can see the other's colorform board/paper. Take turns giving instructions about what to add to the scene and where. This gives your child practice requesting clarification/repetition, which is an important strategy for school. If you are not specific enough, your child will have to ask for more information in order to complete the direction. When you are finished, check to see how well you each listened. Try to remember which directions were given first, second, third...
- Create your own board game
A great activity for a rainy day or any day is to make up a board game. Your child can practice sequencing skills while determining the steps to create the actual board AND while explaining the rules. Just have fun with this one!
Vocabulary, Word Retrieval and Memory
- Games for the Car or Anywhere
Choose a category and take turns thinking of as many members of the category as you can. Try not to repeat any responses. Clap out or sing the category prompt in a rhythmic and repetitive way to add more interest. For example, "We're going to the beach and I think we'll see some...." For older children, have them recall all the members before adding a new one (i.e. We're going to the beach and I think we'll see some seagulls, crabs, sand, and lifeguards"). You can also start naming some category members and ask your child to guess the target category. See who can identify the category with the fewest number of examples. Try these fun categories:
Ice Cream Flavors Things at the Beach Camp Things Thanksgiving Vacation Activities/Spots Winter Sports/Activities Movies Books Vegetables Fruits Tools Animals Vehicles Playground Equipment Flowers Insects Weather Months of the Year Holidays Clothes Places
Here are some interesting books that target categories, synonyms, antonyms and homonyms. Association with other words and classification of terms into categories can help students to organize vocabulary and later retrieve them from memory. Try some of these....
- Snake In, Snake Out by Linda Banchek
- Synonyms by Joan Hanson
- A Snake is Totally Tail by Tana Hoban
- Antonyms by Joan Hanson
- Exactly the Opposite by Tana Hoban
- Pull, Pull, Empty Full: A Book of Opposites by Tana Hoban
- Pickle Things by Marc Brown
- A Cahe of Jewels and Other Collective Nouns by Ruth Heller
- Many Luscious Lollipops: A Book About Adjectives by Ruth Heller
- Love From Woolly by Nina Michaels and Nicola Smee
- Dear Deer by Gene Baretta
- A Chocolate Moose for Dinner by Fred Gwynne
- Jake Greenthumb
- Word of the Day
You can write target words and place them in a jar or have your child write down words (or dictate to you) words he/she hears and wants to learn about. Have your child pull a slip of paper containing a new vocabulary word from the "Word Jar". Discuss the word and definition. If appropriate have your child look the word up in a children's dictionary, write a definition, use it in a sentence that day or draw a picture.
- Board Games
While it certainly is not necessary to purchase items, you may find that some of the things that are already in your toybox can be helpful in fostering language development. Many popular children's games and activities offer opportunities for practice with vocabulary, word retrieval and memory. Here are just a few...
- TriBond for Kids
- Outburst Junior
- Apples to Apples
- Scattergories for Kids
- Taboo for Kids
- 20 Questions for Kids
- Guess Who?
- Crossword Puzzles
Try children's crossword puzzles. This will give your child practice associating the way the word sounds with its meaning. Building these connections should make retrieval more efficient.
- I Spy Games
Play I Spy and attempt to use one or more of the word retrieval strategies. This can be done quickly at the dinner table or while waiting for a class/activity. For example, at the dinner table you might say, "I'm going to try to use some sound clues when I give you this I spy...I spy with my little eye something that rhymes with moon and starts with /sp/." Encourage your child to listen to and apply the sound clues rather than taking wild guesses. If you need to you, can combine multiple kinds of clues (category, meaning...I'm thinking of something in the utensil drawer that I use soup and it rhymes with moon.") Have your child practice giving the I Spy clues to you as well. Encourage reflection on which clues were most helpful in retrieving the word.
- Finish My Sentence
Help your child learn about different grammatical structures by playing word games. You start a sentence and ask your child to finish. Teach regular and irregular verb forms such as past, present, future tense using repetitive structures...
"Today I eat _____, yesterday I _____, tomorrow I will ____".
"Johnny likes to eat. Everyday, he ____"
For irregular plurals/past tense (i.e. mouse-mice; eat-ate) write the word pairs on idex cards and use them to play a Go Fish or memory match game.
Prompt longer and more complex sentences using different conjunctions such as because, but, if, etc. "The summer is my favorite season because _____"
Remember to always model correct grammar. Children are likely to imitate your models. If you notice your child made a grammatical error, try repeating what your child meant to say (using appropriate grammar), in an acknowledging way. Your child will know that you listened and that you can help him learn how to express these thoughts.
- Grammar Simon Says
Play Grammar Simon Says. Give instructions but with this specification: Instead of inhibiting the response if the leader doesn't say Simon says; inhibit the response if the sentence is ungrammatical. For example, your child would respond accordingly to the direction, "Touch your feet and clap"; but would do nothing if instructed, "Touch your foots and clap".
Social Skills and Problem Solving
- Be a good example
Always remember to model appropriate eye contact, personal space, turn-taking, and listening skills when communicating with your child. Verbalize these behaviors to your child too. While some children do pick up some social communication skills incidentally, not all children do and not all of these skills are acquired that way. They need to be made aware of these behaviors and expectations. If someone does a great job adhering to social conventions/expectations or if someone forgets or fails to follow them, use the opportunity to talk about why that behavior is important.
- Problem Solving Books
Use story books to help develop your child's ability to understand social problems and cause and effect, as well as engage in perspective taking and problem solving. Ask why questions and allow opportunities for your child to try to understand how the different characters might feel. Help your child relate that experience to his or her own experiences. The Berenstein Bears series addresses these types of skills. Try some of the following as well...
- Arthur's Nose by Marc T. Brown
- Alfie Gets in First by Shirley Hughes
- The Seven Chinese Brothers by Margaret Mahy
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
- The Wreck of Zephyr by Chris Van Allsburg
- The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
- The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher by Molly Bang
- Puppet Play
For difficult social situations your child may encounter, you can use homemade finger or sock puppets to support acquisition of some important social skills (eye contact, tone of voice, personal space, responding to others, maintaining a topic). Using puppets may yield a better response than talking about what you observed your child to do and what the desirable alternative is. Puppets will also allow you to exaggerate nonverbal cues (such as tone of voice) so that they are more salient, in case your child did not pick up on them during the real life situation. Puppets also allow your child to try again through role playing. There are no rules for how to use the puppets. Just be creative and have fun!
- Joke Books & Riddles
Check out a joke or riddle book from your local library or add one to your personal library. Recognizing and understanding humor, as well as delivering jokes involve a lot of different social communication skills. It's also a great tool for children who may be shy and have difficulty entering or initiating social situations.
- Conversation Skills
Much like the suggested "Idiom Jar" and "Word Jar", create a "Conversation Jar" to hold strips of paper with conversational topics on them. Pull one out and discuss the topic. Remind your child that the topic is ____. If your child needs more support than this, you may want to roll the dice and assign the numbers to represent asking or answering a question (i.e. even number means ask a question; odd number means answer the question). You could also assign a type of question (who, what, where, when....) to each number on the die. See how many exchanges you can maintain the topic/conversation for. If your child develops a new interest add it to the conversation jar. Of course, remember to model and prompt appropriate nonverbal behaviors (i.e. eye contact, body language, personal space, tone of voice, etc).
- Barrier Games
These activities not only help with following directions and expressive language, but also perspective taking. You can use two matching colorform sets or blank pieces of paper and crayons/markers. Explain to your child that you will be creating matching pictures together. Place a barrier between the two of you so that neither of you can see the other's colorform board/paper. Take turns giving instructions about what to add to the scene. If your child is not specific enough prompt him (i.e. "What color flower should I draw next to the tree?"). If he or she has difficulty with perspective taking you may need to provide reminders that you can not see the other page (i.e. "Mommy, put the duck colorfom right here"). When you are finished, study your creations to see how well you communicated with each other!
- Charades or Role Playing
Help your child attend to nonverbal communication by playing a game of charades. You can start with basic familiar actions like drinking, swimming, bouncing a ball, then advance to more difficult tasks such as gestures/facial expressions associated with different emotions. You can help develop your child's perspective taking skills by switching roles every now and then (i.e. mom/dad will play the role of the child and vice versa; or switch sibling roles).
Speech Sound Production
- Card or Board Games
Use any old game around the house to support your child in speech sound practice. Chutes and Ladders, Bingo, Go Fish, Old Maid, Crazy Eights, etc. All you need to do is add a rule: before taking your turn you must say your sound in isolation, a word, phrase, or sentence, depending on you child's skill level.
- Tongue Twisters
Practice saying tongue twisters that have your child's target sounds. Tape record them if you'd like to listen how her/she produced his/her speech sounds. Invent your own silly tongue twisters too.
Read or write poems that include your child's target sounds. Maintaining the appropriate rhythm of poem will require your child to recite sounds/words carefully and a little more slowly, which should help with speech sound production.
Read books that include your child's target sounds. Have him repeat these words with appropriate speech sound production. Here is a list of several books that include lots of your common target sounds....
- Hooway for Wodney Way
- The Very Grouchy Ladybug
- The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher
- Rotten Ralph
- Three Up a Tree
- Harry the Dirty Dog
- Is Your Mama a Llama
- Liza Lou and the Yeller Belly Swamp
- There's an Alligator Under My Bed
- Lyle, Lyle Crocodile
- Lovable Lyle
- Leo the Late Bloomer
- Arthur's Nose
- Would You Rather
- Tyler Toad and the Thunder
- George and Martha
- King Bidgood's in the Bathtub
- Time to Get Out of the Bath, Shirley
"SH, CH, J" books
- Sheep in a Jeep
- George and Martha
- The Baby Uggs are Hartching
- Come Away from the Water Shirley
"S, Z" books
- The Stupids Step Out
- Anansi the Spider
- Tyrannosaurus Was a Beast
- Chicken Soup with Rice
- Six Sick Sheep: 100 Tongue Twisters
- Mr. Grumpy's Outing
NOTE: Links to these resources are not currently active. Please contact the Speech and Language Department if you are interested in getting a hard copy.
- Memory Tricks Bookmarks
- Remembering Words Bookmarks
- Conversation Helpers
- What Do I Say?
- Resources for Middle School and High School Students
- Active Listening Tips
- Strategies for Successful Studying
- Tips for Good Note-Taking