1. Plant something
Children of all ages love to play in the mud. So why not capitalize on that enthusiasm for getting dirty and plant something this spring? We know that children learn language best when we follow their lead and talk about things that they are interested in. Go ahead and try planting the seed to see if you can help them cultivate a new interest. All dorky puns aside, planting something can be a wonderful way to learn new language.
Throughout the course of the project, introduce new vocabulary and concepts (e.g., dig, wet/dry, worms, leaves, stem, roots, chlorophyll, perennial/annual). Pick 5 new words: easier or harder, depending on your child’s age and stage of development.
Read any directions out loud (on seed packets, for example) and give your child the opportunity to hone their ability to follow longer/more complex directions.
Boost your child’s oral narrative skills (story-telling) by talking about all the steps involved in your gardening project and then getting him/her to tell the steps back to you. If your child needs more support, take pictures on your phone/iPad of the evolution of your planting project. Print out those pictures into a little “story book” that your child can use to tell others. (“First, we went to the store, next we dug the hole, then we planted the seeds, etc. etc.).
Check out this link for some seriously cool gardening (and related) project ideas: from sponge grass houses to cheerio bird feeders.
2. Take a trip
We’ve all been cooped up indoors for too long this winter so it’s time to get out into the world. Why not take a trip? It doesn’t need to be an expensive one, just a day trip will do, but going somewhere new will create many learning opportunities for your child. Head to a local farm and see the baby animals. Teach/talk about concepts of size (tiny, little, big, huge, etc.), teach the names the baby animals (e.g., calf, hatchling/chick, piglet, fawn, kid, foal, fawn, etc.). Alternatively, head out for a hike somewhere and talk about all the things you see along your journey. Point out words such as: bud, blossom, caterpillar, cocoon, etc. Check out this link for fun kid-friendly Ontario day trips.
3. Go to the aquarium, zoo, or Science Centre
Head out to the aquarium, zoo, or Science Centre. Just like in the points above, take the time to introduce new vocabulary words and concepts. If your child is a little bit older, sit down with them and let them help you plan the outing itself, which may be the most educational part! To promote the development of your child’s executive functioning and higher level language skills, prompt them to make a plan for the outing that includes how best to get there (car versus train versus subway), required supplies (lunch, water, backpack, etc.), what time to go, how much it will cost, problems that could come up along the way, etc.
For more on developing executive function skills in your child, check out this super helpful Harvard link.
4. Sign up for a class
There are so many benefits to taking different classes and exploring a variety of interests. Although not “language” focused per se, classes from ballet, to soccer, to swimming can reap a ton of language and learning benefits. For example, in any classes, children learn to follow directions from another adult and to follow a new routine. They learn social communication skills such as greeting/meeting new friends, taking turns, and maybe some even higher skills such as negotiating or resolving conflict.
Classes can be expensive, we get that, so don’t forget to exercise the free options in your community:
Ontario Early Years Centres
Aurora Public Library
5. Think about summer
Summer is just around the corner (yay!), which means it’s also time to start thinking about summer programming for your child. Think outside the box and check out a STEM camp (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) or drama camp. Or, if your child is heading to Kindergarten in the fall and could benefit from more help with speech, language or motor goals, check out the Kindergarten Readiness Summer Sessions we are offering at Aurora Speech Clinic this summer.
For those who need camp subsidies, click here for information from the Ontario Camp Association.
Hope this gives all of you some fun ideas to help your children grow and blossom this spring!
As always, let us know if you have any questions,
Stephanie Zawalicz & Jill McDermid
Registered Speech-Language Pathologists
Aurora Speech Clinic