Today is the official start to the summer season. The sun is shining, the kids are excited for school to be out soon, and I’m thinking about how to provide parents with the tools to continue speech-language development throughout the summer.

If you already know your child’s skills are behind because you completed an assessment with a Speech-Language Pathologist, this information will be especially important for you. The good news though, is that any child can benefit from ‘language enrichment’ at the park.

I recently ate my lunch at Gibson Park in Elmira, Ontario. Despite the relatively small but growing population of this town, there are incredible parks here. During my lunch break, I found myself fascinated and almost teary-eyed with all the opportunities to practice speech-language skills on this playground.

Here are some ‘language facilitation strategies’ that I want to highlight to help you absorb this information.

  • Modeling: This is providing the sentence for your child to imitate (or word - it depends on what ‘level’ your child is at). A child sees a bug on the swing, you both look at it and you say, “I see a bug” for your child to repeat.

  • Parallel talk: This is when you talk about what the child is doing.

  • Self Talk: When you talk about what you are doing.

  • Expansion: Repeat what your child says but make it more grammatically correct.

  • Extension: Comment on what your child said and add new information.

  • Focused Stimulation: This is when you repeat. You repeat a word or phrase to encourage your child to use it.

I quickly ate my lunch and walked through the playground, writing notes in my phone on all the words that could enrich your child’s learning.

Here is what came to mind if I were playing with a toddler at this park. If you’re with an older child or a child who is already talking in sentences, you can practice words like these in sentences:

  • step up

  • hold on

  • spinning

  • sliding

  • swinging

  • push back

  • push forward

  • slide back

  • go forward

  • twirling

  • grab here

  • hold here

  • bumpy

  • again!

  • squeaky

  • green

  • squishy

  • hot

  • shade

  • sunny

  • bright

  • through the tunnel!

  • climbing

  • wet sand

  • digging

  • dumping

  • fast/slow

Take this scenerio for example. A young child climbs up the ladder and as you help her take a step you say, “step up - step up - step up (etc.)” (focused stimulation), “you’re stepping up” (parallel talk - talking about what the child is doing). Then you say, “hold on!” (modeling) the child holds the railing and your hand as she walks along the rickety bridge, “I’m holding your hand, holding” (self talk - talking about what you’re doing).

In another scenerio, if you’re practicing language skills with a child who is using sentences, you can add grammar, add meaning, and generally add more expression to what your child is trying to say. If your child says he wants to go on the ‘thing’ while pointing to the kid friendly zipline at this park you’d say, “you want to go on the zipline”. He may require help asking to try it so you model a way to ask such as, “can I have a turn?”. Rather than simply pushing him, he can practice saying what he would like you to do, “push me please!” or maybe, “I want to stop” (you never know).

You don’t have to use these strategies the whole time that you are at the park, but be mindful of the opportunities that you can use them. Most importantly, enjoy your time together this summer and keep practicing.

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For more information on Gibson Park and the mother daughter duo that pulled together the community to support building this accessible playground, go to http://www.kateskause.com/

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