Friday, May 29, 2015

Developing and Improving Language Skills on the Playground

Did you know that language skills are a HUGE predictor of reading and writing abilities in the classroom?

The Super Duper Company has identified some critical areas that poor language skills will impact in the classroom:
• understanding oral directions.
• vocabulary skills.
• using complete sentences or correct grammar.
• completing assignments independently.
• becoming easily frustrated.

A child’s reading and writing abilities can also be affected by a language delay:
• learning the relationship between letters and sounds.
• discriminating between sounds.
• learning sight words.
• “guessing” at words based on pictures or the beginning sound.
• spelling.
• fluent oral reading (not sounding “choppy”).
• forming letters and words on paper.
• organizing thoughts on paper.
• reading comprehension.

It's almost summer and you will more than likely be spending more time outside with your toddler or preschool child on the playground. Please take this opportunity to work on their language skills to get them ready for school or to catch up if they have already been identified as having an expressive language disorder.



So now let's talk about a few ways that you can help your child develop better language skills this summer.


Check out books from your local library about playgrounds or playing outside and read them to your child the day before or night before you go to familiarize them with the vocabulary words you will be using. Talk about the playground equipment by name. Ask them questions about it such as "Which one would you like to play on?" Talk about the weather in the pictures and predict what the weather will be like when you go to play.

Use future tense verbs during this time: "We will go to the playground. We will swing. We will slide."

This book, Higher Higher by Leslie Patricelli has simple language structure. The pictures are adorable. The little girl is swinging at the park and is telling her daddy to push her higher and higher. As she goes up she sees things that are taller and taller like a giraffe and a skyscraper. Use the pictures and ask questions such as "What does she see?" "Where is she?" "Who is pushing her?" etc. Try and ask two questions that starts with WH on each page (who, what, when, where). (affiliate link)
Another great book that shows all of the equipment at the playground that you could use for preposition/directional terms is Hide and Seek Harry by Kenny Harrison. If you only get one book, I would suggest this because of ALL the pictures where Harry is hiding and how WONDERFUL it is for language development. Point to the pictures where Harry is hiding and ask, "Where is he?" Don't let them point to him. The child needs to say "Under the seesaw" or "Behind the bench". I like to use this little phrase with my kiddos in speech therapy, "Hands Back! Use words!" Of course for younger kids you will need to talk about the pictures and model the appropriate language for them. So if they point to the picture, you reply, "That's right! Harry is UNDER the seesaw!" Can't express how much I LOVE this book. (affiliate link)
A great "first words" board book about the park can be found here: 

So now you have prepared for the EVENT! (Did you know going to the playground could be something you would prepare for days in advance?!?)


Play a modified "Hide and Seek" by standing with your eyes covered and asking questions "Where are you?" and "Are you on top?" or "Are you under something?" Then trade places and let your child "find" you. Remember that "using words" is more important than the actual game or activity. They do not need to point or come and find you. To develop their language skills they need to use them...verbally! They should be able to name all of the equipment on the playground during this activity as well as positional terms such as under, on, behind, beside... By 2-3 years of age children should be able to use a handful of prepositions as well as use pronouns correctly such as I, you, me). By 3-4 years of age children should be using is, am, are in sentences in response to your questioning.

For present tense talk about what you and your child are doing. Narrate everything. "You are swinging. You are sliding. We are jumping."

Run or walk and use words like "fast/faster/fastest". Talk about the trees and grass being "tall/taller/tallest".

Sit on the bench and rest. Talk about things in categories while you are able to see them. "Let's name all of the playground equipment!" Name the first one or two and then let your child name more.
Look up into the sky and say, "Let's name things we see in the sky!" Other categories could be things that grow, animals we see, people we see, etc.

As you are driving back home replay that category game that you played earlier. Let your child name the things they previously named when playing together and looking at the actual items.

Script past tense verbs while asking questions: "What did we do first?" (We ran, we played on the...) "What did we do on the bouncy bridge?" Children should be using simple past tense verbs around 3-4 years of age. You are also setting them up for the BIG FINALE---retelling their story.


After you get home, get out the crayons and draw some pictures. You should be drawing one too as you model the past tense language that surrounded your trip to the playground. This illustration will be wonderful reference material when hung on your refrigerator!

Call grandma or aunt and tell them about your trip to the playground. The more you use the vocabulary, the better chance of it sticking.

Tell dad what you did when he gets home from work. Be sure you have prepared dad and other family members to ASK lots of open ended "WH" questions, NOT yes/no questions. You want to allow as many opportunities as possible to develop language skills.

Provide new experiences for your child. Visit other playgrounds, invite friends to join you. Take a scooter or trike to the playground the next time you go. Bring bubbles, pack a picnic, fly a kite while you are there so that you have new experiences to talk about in the future.


I found some adorable toys that would be great to use when introducing and reviewing vocabulary specific to playgrounds. All of these would be great to use when working on positional and directional terms.

 

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