Where do I find the time?
Families have more-than-full schedules these days. Just scrape the top of any parent’s priority list and you will probably find a heavy job workload, household responsibilities, children to care for, and extra curricular activities on a daily basis. And that’s only the first layer.
So when parents ask, “How do we find the extra time to work on our child’s language development?” our answer is simple: “No extra time is needed. Language is already in everything we do.”
Adults are constantly giving children opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge. The North American default is to ask questions: “What colour is this?”“What did you do today?”“Why did you do that?” But for children with language delays, producing the answers to such questions may be beyond their current capabilities. So instead of asking questions, our focus is on giving them the answers. We do this by describing and explaining what they are experiencing, by giving them the words and language they haven’t yet mastered.
Below are two activities that families already do on a regular basis, with descriptions of how they can be tweaked to improve any child’s vocabulary, concept knowledge, and sentence development. Finding a regular and repeating activity is the key, so that the repetition of language provides experiences that build on themselves.
As much as parents may struggle to get their children to eat healthy, all children do eat. Perhaps a repeated food request is for the same kind of sandwich. By making the food together and talking through each step, both sequencing concepts and vocabulary are targeted.
“First, we take the bread out of fridge and put a slice on the plate. Second we find the almond butter in the cupboard, take it down, and last use a knife to spread it on the slice of bread.
An older child can be taught how to set the table: to place the cutlery left and right, napkins going under the forks, placing the glass on the top corner of the place mat, or aligned with the knife and spoon.
Another regular activity involves taking a bath. We can target body part vocabulary and expose them again to the sequencing concepts of first, second, third and last for shampooing our hair, washing with soap, cleaning in-between our toes and under our fingernails. For an older child, we could describe how the water goes up the pipes into the overhead shower, or down the drain and out of the house.
This type of conversation, involving descriptions and explanations, can be used in any situation. Just remember that kids learn best when they are having fun, so don’t be afraid to let your creativity take over. Blow some bubbles with them while they are in the bath. Add a few drops of food colouring to your rice or mashed potatoes. Let them eat as many strawberries as they can count. Play the guessing game of making sounds and figuring out which animal you are imitating. Language is the first, middle and last part of everything we do. No extra time required.