School Holiday Activities for Language Development
School holidays. A time when everyone enjoys a break from school and work. Â During the holidays it can be difficult to think of different activities to do with the children. Â Below are some ideas of fun activities to play with your children which will also provide opportunities to develop speech, language and listening skills.
Give specific feedback to your child, for example “Good listening”, “You did a really good ‘S’ sound there.” You could bring in the aspects of speech or language that your child has been working on in therapy, for example if they are working on a specific sound you can mention how well they pronounce that sound, or if they are doing stuttering therapy, you can tell them what lovely smooth speech they have when they are doing well.
It is best to avoid any negative comments, like “No, that’s not right!” When your child makes a speech error, you can repeat the word, emphasising the correct way to say it. For example, “Yes that is a DOG”. Or when a child gets stuck on a word, you can say it slowly, with no pressure to repeat the word.
Many families find themselves travelling during school holidays. The car journeys can be boring for children, so here are some ideas to brighten up these journeys.
Guessing games/”I spy”
Give everyone in the car a turn to describe something they can see along the way or in the car. Older children may be better at describing something from memory. The items can be described using colour, size, shape and texture. This aids the development of adjectives and describing words. This also aids in the development of turn taking and waiting as everyone should get their turn to ask questions and guess.
Begin this game with a lead-in sentence like, â€œfor Christmas dinner, mum cooked…â€ Taking turns each person adds on another item, listing off all the items already mentioned. This game continues until someone forgets something on the list. Make the game more fun by naming silly or funny items. This also aids in turn taking as well as memory. The following are other examples and you can also have fun thinking up your own ideas.
Under my bed I found ______
I went to the park/zoo and saw _____
I went to grannyâ€™s for dinner and I ate _____
Another memory game that can be played in the car is remembering TV programmes or films they have seen, giving as much information as possible. Give your child time to tell the story and guide them along with questions, e.g. â€œwhat happened next?â€ If your child says â€œheâ€ did something and you are not sure which character they are talking about you can ask them e.g. â€œwho went up to the castle?â€
Beginning with A and working to Z think of or look for things beginning with each letter. You can narrow it down by working in categories e.g. animals, things at home, foods, Christmas, things that are red, blue, green. If your child is working on a specific sound or sounds in therapy this is an ideal game for them to practice that sounds. Choose this as the letter for their turn in the game.
If your child is old enough to understand and create rhymes this is a great activity. Begin with one word e.g. â€œsnowâ€ and take it in turns to think of words that rhyme with it e.g. bow, low, mow. You can all create wacky weird rhymes too, to liven up your journey. For example, “The cow started to meow, the cat got too fat and the goat fell in a moat.”
During those wet, cold and snowy days (Irish summer) when you are stuck indoors these are some fun activities which can be done at home and will also aid language development.
Aid your child in their memory development in a creative manner. Draw pictures of the different family members you have gone to visit and the different things you have done e.g. visit to Santa. Stick different pictures on a page and add in some photographs if you have some. Below the picture you can write all about the event and encourage your child to remember as much as they can. You can create lots of different pictures of different events and put them all together in a book which you can read together later on.
Give your child a scrap book and work with them filling in each page with either photos, pictures they have cut out or their own drawings. The internet is great for this as you can print out lots of different pictures. Make each page a different category and so every time you work on the scrap book you focus on a different category, for example “Things that are cold”, “Things that make me happy”.
Work on the scrap book together and talk with your child about all the different things that you are sticking in. You can make silly pictures, for example put a cat riding a bike and ask your child to tell you what is wrong with it and to fix it. Your child can then have fun decorating the page with stickers, paint, feathers or glitter glue.
Follow the leader
One person does an action while also verbally saying what they are doing. Everyone else repeats the words and copies the action that the leader is doing. Make sure to take it in turns being the leader.
Using pictures from kids magazines, you can create your own stories. Stick the pictures on the page and work with your child to write speech bubbles and write what the characters are saying. Encouraging your child to create their own stories will aid their narrative development. You can assist them by asking questions for example: â€œWho was in the storyâ€, â€œWhat happened next?â€ etc. Encourage them to give you as much information as possible.
What animal am I?
Take turns with your child acting out the actions of different animals. A cat could be acted out by pretending to lick paws. This encourages your child to think about all the different aspects of animals. While acting out the animal you can also describe what you are doing and support your child in doing the same on their turn.
This is a great game if you have more than one child at home as they can dress up together. Parents should close their eyes and ask your children to give you clues as to what they are and you have to guess. This aids your childâ€™s language development as they have to make sure they think of all aspects of what they are dressed up as. You can make it more fun and last longer by guessing silly things first.
Another version of the game, could be to “Change One Thing”. One person exits the room, and then changes one thing about their appearance – it can be very obvious, like a hat or wig, or more subtle, like a sock turned over, or a watch moved to another arm. The others then have to guess what has changed.
When your child is playing with the play dough give them a category to make lots of things from, for example animals, clothes, or food. Talk with them about all the different things he/she is making and you can make things alongside them. If they cannot think of more things within the category give them some clues. Talk about the actions as your child plays with the playdough – talk about “rolling”, “squeezing”, “flattening” or “cutting” and maybe act out a pretend sequence with the figures afterwards.
Whatever the weather, if there are opportunities, getting outside can be a great way to spend time together. If it is snow kids have lots of fun making snow men and going for walks in the snow. If it is summer, usually there are lots of people outside, and local free events and festivals. With this come good opportunities for parents to use this time to aid language development.
Walk and Talk
Go for a walk in the sun (or snow, depending on which holiday it is), in your local park or around town to see the Christmas lights. Encourage your child to talk about their surroundings and help to focus their attention on specific things. React to what your child says, for example if your child were to point to a snowman and say â€œSnowmanâ€ you could respond with â€œYes look at the big snowman with sticks as his arms. What does he have around his neck?â€
By highlighting the details of the items in your childâ€™s surroundings this aids them to look at all the different aspects of things and therefore increase what they can learn from different experiences.
If your child is working on a specific sound in therapy you can encourage them to look for things with that sound for example if he/she is working on â€˜râ€™ you could say â€œLook at that dog run run running, I hear your â€˜râ€™ sound in running, can you see anything with your sound?â€™
On your way home you can talk about all the things you did and saw and encourage them to learn and remember.
Hop and Skip
Lots of children with language difficulties find it hard to label actions. You can play fun turn-taking games like Simon Says or an obstacle course set up outside, and discuss and label the actions as you follow them. You can also put the instructions on picture cards.
There are also a few games on the market that children can play together, like the Cranium Hullabaloo game or charades. These actions can be performed outside or inside, or adapted into your own version, like Simon Says.
Spread it out
Every parent knows what activities their child likes best and as the school holidays are a few weeks long, make sure that you donâ€™t use up all their favourite activities during the beginning of the holiday but spread them out and try new things with them in the middle.
Remember to have lots of fun over the holidays. This can be a memorable time for you and your child. If you have any questions about any of the activities please do not hesitate to contact the CATTS team.