Downtime or Creative Time?
It goes without saying that filling this holiday season with joy requires more imagination and creativity than in the past. Especially when it comes to making it a special experience for our children, including those who receive online speech therapy.
Although your child will be missing his weekly sessions, it’s vital that you keep pace with your child’s speech and language goals during the break.
But how do you do that? It begins with the realization and commitment that, while your child is on vacation, there’s no reason to take a break from working on her speech therapy. And when cleverly done, not only won’t it detract from the holiday fun but it can become an integral and enjoyable part of the celebration.
Need some ideas as to how to do that? Here they are:
1. Recite Poetry
As we all know, for most of us, holidays are about being with family. So while your kids may fixate on their presents and yummy treats, when all is said and done, what they really crave is quality time with the family. That is why integrating a speech activity into spending time with family can be a very attractive and powerful experience.
Reciting poetry may be what you are looking for. Have your child recite a passage from a poem for one of the grandparents or other relatives. And tailor that recitation to her speech goals. For example, if your child is working on her ability to better enunciate certain speech sounds, have her concentrate on those sounds during the recitation.
Parents often don’t recognize how skewed their frame of reference is regarding their kids’ speech and language therapy progress. Since they interact with them day in and day out, such progress is oftentimes imperceptible or at best hard to discern.
However, for a relative who hasn’t been together with your child in months, it’s a very different story. Grandma may be the perfect person to notice your child’s speech improvement. And what better way for your kid to show her stuff than to recite a beautiful piece of verse?
2. Bake Cookies Together
Baking cookies together is another wonderful way to reinforce language development at any age. This is a real-life opportunity for your child to practice reading and following directions.
In addition to identifying ingredients, you can also teach your child how to sequence actions, name the utensils, tastes, flavors, colors, and shapes. People who have tried this are often surprised, not only at how engaged kids become in assisting with these holiday preparations but at their enthusiasm in describing them as well.
And take it another step. Have your child constantly verbalize how she is helping you and why. When baking with your child, it’s important to let her make mistakes in the process, so she learns why she must follow directions in the sequence they’re given.
Kids love to collaborate in grown-up activities and, when the outcome yields a yummy batch of cookies that they can call their own, the effort is every bit worth it.
3. Let them Help you Decorate
Between all of the season’s holidays, there is ample opportunity to both mount and take down decorations. Decorating together with someone else requires plenty of communication, as well as careful attention to detail. And if you are a well-organized person, then the entire process will involve following a sequence of instructions.
Choose your child to be your partner in this decorating process. As you decorate together, encourage him to use words such as shiny, red, sparkly, when describing your decorations. Ask him WH-questions about how to decorate the house, e.g., Where do you think we should put this? What goes next? The questions (who, what, where, when, why) encourage conversations about your activities together.
One of the best ways to take advantage of the extra time that you have together over the holidays is to bring back into your home that time-honored tradition of storytime. This can be either telling your child stories verbally or reading them aloud. And doing this for a few minutes before bedtime can provide the perfect opportunity.
While it may seem to you that having your child read is the optimal way to improve her language skills, it is actually better for her reading comprehension for you to read to your child. After you finish reading the chapter, spend time discussing what you read with her. Because it is so enjoyable, she won’t even realize that she is working on her speech.
Reading together will get your kid interested in new concepts, words, and pictures and make regular contributions to her vocabulary. Besides, igniting her imagination with magical tales is a wonderful way to encourage visualization and better language comprehension.
5. Singing Songs
And finally, music and singing have proven to be highly effective strategies for speech development as well. Songs and nursery rhymes teach children how to differentiate tones, rhythms, and beats that enable children to pick up words and pronunciation. This time of year is especially rich in seasonal sounds that do the trick.
When you belt out those holiday songs, you can do it quickly or do it slowly, but whichever you choose, make it fun! Don’t confine the song to voice alone, use hand motions and gestures to accentuate the song’s message. Turn the words that rhyme into a discussion. And while you’re at it, substitute other rhyming words as well to make it even more fun.
You Made the Right Decision!
Pat yourself on the back for taking some of your precious holiday time, and devoting it to helping your child progress in his speech therapy. All of these holiday activities are low-stress, easy ways to maintain the gains your child is making in speech therapy while bonding with your child.
Irrespective of which activity you choose, just taking the time — even 10 minutes every other day or so — can impact your child’s overall speech improvement trajectory beyond what you might imagine. Add this special dimension to your family holiday enjoyment by taking advantage of these tried and true communication possibilities!
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