As a young speech therapist, really as a young teen babysitting, I realized that I could get much more cooperation from kids if I made my time with them fun and appropriate to their age level. Working with kids with special needs presented many exciting challenges and opportunities to get creative. I began my career by buying each kid’s favorite toys and quickly ended up with a closet full of toys and a big bill at Toys R Us! This strategy wasn’t going to work! Since I did therapy with kids in their homes, I realized they already had their favorite toys and I could use them! As a parent, I sadly repeated this pattern of buying the newest “it” toy. Again, I ended up with a playroom full of toys and a big bill…this time at Target and Walmart (at least I had learned to shop at more budget-friendly stores!). To add insult to injury, my kids played with the new toys for only a short while before they looked to my laundry pile as a homemade “foam jump pit” or pots and pans as musical instruments. My point….You already have the tools aka toys to create an environment rich with opportunities to facilitate your child’s communication skills!! Here are two of my favorite ideas that can incorporate kids of many ages.
1. Play a sorting game. Put out a laundry basket (or designate a couch cushion) for each room in the house (kid’s room # 1, kid’s room #2, towels, mom and dad’s room, etc.). Set the oven timer or turn on the radio and sort until the timer dings or song ends. Little ones who may not be the best sorters can cheer you and the bigger kids on and judge who sorted the most clothes in the time given.
2. As you sort clothes you can work on adjectives and words that compare quantity and size. Talk about whose shirt is big, bigger, biggest. Find the red towel in the pile of laundry. After folding the socks into balls, take turns counting how many sock baskets you all can make.
Challenge: Snack Time….Eating Healthy!
1. Put out a tray of healthy snacks in the middle of the table. On a paper plate, use a food-safe marker and draw your child’s favorite shapes on it. Then, talk about which snack item will go in which shape and if it will be crunchy, slimy, etc. The big kids can be involved by washing and cutting fruit and veggies, etc.
2. Make smoothies or fruit pops. Have the kids help by adding ingredients and pushing the blender buttons. Talk the snack up! What will it taste like? What color will the smoothie be when the strawberries mix with the bananas? Work on multi-step directions and sequencing (First, we put in the fruit. Next, we put in the ice. Last, we push the button and mix!).