Language based travel games for the whole family
Ah, modern holidays! Long hours in the car, delayed planes, bored children, that internal groan when someone suggests yet another game of I Spy… Does anyone even like I Spy? This holiday, try something different to pep up your trip and see if it really is about the journey, not the destination.
Pass the bomb: All right, don’t try that one on the plane! This is a car version of the “Pass the Bomb” game by Piatnik. In this game of association, players name words relating to a theme or category whilst passing a ticking bomb to one another before the bomb “explodes”. For example, if the theme is park, possible words are: flowers, bush, swings, birds, dogs, etc. In the car, players take turns at saying words before passing a red vehicle (a "bomb") in the oncoming lane. Think of all sorts of categories: straightforward ones like fruits, bush animals but also more obscure ones, like famous inventors, celestial bodies, spiky things.
For Autism Awareness month, The Hanen Centre have contacted me with an offer of a free e-seminar “Starting Early – Red Flags and Treatment Tips for Toddlers on the Autism Spectrum” for one of the readers of this blog. I have just done this e-seminar and recommend it. It provides clear information on how to identify toddlers who are at risk for ASD as well as useful treatment tips. See at the end of this blog how to participate to win it.
There is definitely greater awareness of autism in the community and the question “Do you think it could be autism?” is one I hear a lot, especially where toddlers are concerned. Whilst I don’t specialise in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and would never put a label of autism so early, I need to address that question and identify children who may be at risk for ASD. Communication begins well before the first words and occurs through a variety of verbal and non-verbal behaviours which can be observed through play-based assessment. Here are some behaviours that can be considered "red flags" for ASD:
All speech pathologists play and create games to teach various communication skills. It’s a lot of fun and a powerful way to learn. Many games have a competitive component to them and some kids are less philosophical than others about losing. While a degree of competitiveness is expected, there are circumstances when winning or losing can get in the way of having fun!
Child psychologist and play therapist Melanie Jansen from Play, Heal, Grow says: “From experience, children who lack self-confidence tend to value winning more than others, and in turn, tend to catastrophize losing a game. These children are more prone to cheating, giving up prematurely, or becoming angry if they don't win”. For a speech pathologist, a child who is upset is not focussed on learning new skills. So, how can we get around this?
Here is a fun one and a quick one! What is found in any speech pathology clinic, can be black/white or in colour, laminated or not and can be used to work on anything from articulation to verbs, sentences, stories, vocabulary and more? A flashcard, of course! Feel like you need an activity to make flashcards fun? Here is one that is always in high demand at Now You’re Talking Speech Pathology (also, see below a document with activity ideas for picture cards).
Sometimes, children with a language delay can feel shy and be reluctant to talk, even if they talk quite a bit at home. Here are some tips to encourage them:
Create a relaxed communication atmosphere:
Parents often ask me to recommend toys that will support their child’s language. Rather than recommending specific toys, here are 5 good principles to follow when choosing toys:
1. Look for toys that promote pretend or symbolic play. According to F.P. Hughes (2010), language and make-believe play go hand in hand as they both rely on a child's ability to represent the world internally to himself.
Hands up who wants a free gift! I have one just for you! In a previous blog, I mentioned how important it was to encourage children to think critically and included a link to an article on critical thinking published by the Hanen Centre in Toronto (a not for profit organisation dedicated to improving communication outcomes for children). In response, the Hanen Centre have sent me a few copies of their 2016 Critical Thinking Edition calendar as a gift to my readers. Designed as an evidence based tool to support language development, this is a calendar with a difference. It is packed with language ideas and tips for parents and educators and this year, the focus is on critical thinking. We need critical thinking in order to evaluate information and make decisions. This habit can be nurtured from an early age and Hanen’s 2016 calendar shows how to do that every month of the year in situations such as pretend play, daily activities, book reading and on the go. The calendar has an extra four months and begins in September 15. For this month (October), the theme is “Keep the conversation going”. One of the suggested activities is to set up a space station and to encourage conversation on what the children would need to take into space and why they would need it. I trialled this activity over three individual sessions with three children of very different ages: Ed (3 years 10 months), Henry (5 years 2 months) and Nat (9 years) [not their real names].
The first thing we did was to look around the clinic for toys/objects that might make a suitable space station. We found quite a few, including a space monster who seems ready to gobble up one of our astronauts…
Looking for language tips, activities and ideas? This blog is for parents, speech pathologists, teachers, educators and anyone with an interest in speech and language.