I often get asked about the best toys and gadgets to stimulate communication in children. And, although I do have some favorites, communication occurs everywhere, everyday (#CommunicateEverywhere). No special gadgets or gizmos are needed. So keep your money in your pocket and use your everyday routines to work on your child’s speech and language skills. There are numerous ways that you can help your child learn and stimulate his communication without spending a dime…or leaving the house. Here 9 tried and true activities for communication development:
Speak to Your Child
Children understand a lot more of what we’re saying than we think. Speak to your child even if you think s/he doesn’t understand or isn’t listening. You can describe activities as they’re happening (e.g. Mommy’s making dinner), model words and phrases, ask questions, and so on…
Read Books and Look at Pictures
If you have children’s books at home or have access to books from the library, read them to your child. Or if your child won’t sit and listen to the story, you can make the activity more interactive by asking him to find, name, or describe certain pictures. You can also take turns “reading” the story. You can read or describe the story to your child and then pass the book along and allow him to re-tell the story using the pictures for support. If you don’t have access to books, or are interested in trying something else, use your own photos to make a book. Children are sometimes more engaged when they see pictures of themselves or people they know
Invite Your Child into the Kitchen
Some families are hesitant to bring kids into the kitchen because it’ll lead to a mess. But the benefits of bringing your child into the kitchen should outweigh the mess. You can teach your child various skills, such as sequencing and counting.
Let Your Child Participate in Chores
Not only does this help children learn, it also helps you gets the chores done! Talk about a bonus! If you are doing laundry, have your child match up the socks. Doing this one activity, your child can learn the skill of matching similar objects, can learn colors (if you have socks with different colors or designs), and can practice counting (among other things).
Do Arts and Crafts
There are millions of websites (and Pinterest boards) out there with arts and crafts activities that can be done with children of all ages. Arts and crafts that are particularly beneficial are those that can be used multiple times, such as homemade dough, masks, or puppets.Watch this video about a simple bunny puppet craft that can be used to stimulate communication. The list of skills a child can learn from one craft is endless.
Keep Your Used Toilet Paper/Paper Towel Rolls
After you’ve used up all the paper, use the rolls for a variety of functions: to make binoculars, to use it as a microphone, to use it as a telescope…Oh the fun your child can have with that. If using it as a microphone, take turns making silly sounds (and then eventually words or phrases) into it. Your child will be encouraged to try and speak and imitate you during this fun and interactive game. If using it as binoculars or a telescope, your child can become an adventurer, looking for people and objects that are around the house or in pictures.
Have a Scavenger Hunt
You can do this by hiding pictures or objects around the house and having your child find them. Your child can work on skills, such as identifying specific objects (e.g. Johnny, where’s the ball?), naming objects (ball!), describing objects (big ball), using location phrases (on the table), and so on.
Singing is a great way to engage your child and encourage sound or word imitation. Try using songs that have accompanying hand movements, such as the Wheels on the Bus. Children typically imitate movements before they imitate words. After you’ve sung the same song multiple times, pause at key parts in the song to see if your child will fill in the blank. For example, you would say, “The wheels on the bus go….” and your child would finish “round and round.” Depending on your child’s age or developmental level, he may not be able to say or pronounce the appropriate words, but may be able to produce a sound (e.g. “ah”).
Play I Spy
You can work on various concepts with your child by playing this typical children’s game. Concepts could include: colors (I spy something yellow), sizes (I spy something large), shapes (I spy a circle), etc. Your child can practice identifying objects based on your descriptions and/or your child can practice describing objects for you to find.
I think this list is good enough to get you started and demonstrate the point that expensive toys or contraptions are not needed to have fun, learn, or speak. So spend some much-needed time at home with your child relaxing and doing some of these fun activities. Keep in mind that all of the activities can be made simpler or more complex depending on your child’s age or skill level.