Help Your Child Develop Language This Summer

If you are like many families, you are planning some kind of summer fun with your family. It may be a week at the beach,  a cruise, or even a trip to the zoo. Wherever you go, there are ways to encourage your child’s language development and make the trip more fun for everyone. When children have speech and language impairments every activity is an opportunity to improve their language skills. There are ways to do this through pre-teaching, planning, and good follow up.

What to do Before the Trip

Make a list of appropriate vocabulary words to target. Then begin to talk about these words by looking at pictures and books that include your target vocabulary words. Tell your child stories about what is going to happen. You can also write stories about the upcoming adventure. Depending on the level of your child’s language skills you can write these stories for them with their input, or they can write the story themselves. Also make sure you have a working camera. From iPhones, to an old fashion instant camera, photos are extremely important. You can even buy a digital camera made specifically for children. Then you won’t have to  worry about yours getting broken.

What to do During the Trip

While on your trip talk about the vocabulary words and stories that you made up prior to the trip. Make sure to photograph these items for later use. If this is an extended trip, talk each night about the events of the day. Also take time at night to plan the next day’s activities with your child. Maps and information brochures are great conversation starters. For example, during my last trip to the zoo we took home a map of the zoo for my daughter. She talked about the gorillas and butterflies for weeks. And she will still talk about them when she comes across the map.

What to do After the Trip

After your trip is over, everyone will be excited to tell their stories. For children with speech and language deficits is not always easy to tell stories. This is where the photos come in. They give your child a way to share stories regardless of language limitations. So go through the pictures with your child, and pay attention to the pictures that interests him the most. Put those pictures aside for a scrapbook. However, this is not an ordinary scrapbook, it is a language development scrapbook. Not only will you and your child create it together, but he will be able to take it wherever he goes. And he will be able to use it to help him tell stories of his family’s adventures.

The materials needed are: Hard copies of the pictures, glue stick, construction paper, a marker, a three hole puncher, and 3 metal binder rings.

Glue one picture at a time onto a piece of construction paper. Together with your child, come up with a word or statement about that picture. The level of your child’s language skills will determine the complexity of the statement. Write the sentence under the picture and talk about it with your child. Do this with as many pictures you want.

Depending on your child’s attention span, you may want to break this activity up over a few days. This activity should not become tedious for your child. If it does, you can complete the book and read it to him when you are finished.

After all the pictures are glued on and the words are written, take them to a printing shop and have them laminated. This will ensure that your memories will last a long time. After each page is laminated, 3 hole punch them and attach them to the metal rings.

You now have a personal language development story book that can help develop your child’s language skills. If you do this activity with every trip you’ll not only help your child develop language but you’ll also build memories that will last a lifetime.

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Isa Marrs

Isa Marrs is a board-certified speech-language pathologist who specializes in articulation, pragmatic language and feeding disorders in children. Read More