Activities

Activities

Category Archives: Activities

Literacy Activities to Try at Home

In honor of Dr. Seuss’s upcoming birthday, I thought I’d do a post about literacy activities.  Did you know that a child’s exposure to books greatly impacts his/her communication and academic skills?  Through this post, I hope to share some easy-to-implement literacy activities.  These activities will help your child improve his communication, vocabulary, and literacy skills.

4 Easy Literacy Activities

1. Engage your child in rhyme

There is probably no one more famous than Dr. Seuss when it comes to rhyme.  Take, for example, one of his most popular books, The Cat in the Hat.  There are rhymes abound on every page.  Keep in mind, though, you don’t just have to rely on Dr. Seuss or other rhyming books to encourage or develop this skill.  Aside from books, other great tools to encourage rhyme are nursery rhymes and children’s songs.  Whether it be a familiar story or song, try pausing at crucial parts to see if your child can fill in the appropriate word (e.g., The cat in the _____).

2. Use wordless picture books

Have you ever heard of a wordless picture book?  If not, it’s exactly as it sounds.  It’s a picture book with absolutely no words.  Now, I’m sure you’re wondering how a book with no words could encourage literacy development, but hear me out.  By using wordless picture books, children can practice making up their own stories and developing narrative skills that are so important for both understanding and telling stories.  If the idea of telling a story is new to or difficult for your child, you can make up the story first and then give your child a turn.  Two great books that I use in therapy are The Boy, the Dog, and the Frog by Mercer Mayer and Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie DePaola.

3. Have a letter/word scavenger hunt

Who doesn’t love a good scavenger hunt?  Scavenger hunts are activities I use a lot in therapy because many different skills can be practiced while allowing children to run around and have fun.  If your child is just beginning to learn and recognize letters, see if she can find specific ones when you’re out at the grocery store or driving in the car.  This is a game my son absolutely loves.  If your child is learning to read words, you look for familiar words in books, magazines or even on food containers (e.g., the cereal box).

4. Role play your favorite story

Does your child have a story or book that he makes you read over and over and over again?  I know mine sure does.  Whether it’s your child’s favorite book or one that is fairly new, use role play to bring the story to life.  For some children, sitting for a story can be a difficult task, so by bringing puppets or costumes into the mix you can grab their attention.  There are many story kits you can buy to accomplish this task, but I suggest looking for things you already have around the house to act out the story.  The more you and your child use your imaginations, the better the learning experience will be!

 

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of literacy activities, but I hope it’ll get your mind thinking of other ways you can engage your child in the magical world of story.  For some more inspiration, visit Seussville.

 

5 Tips for Aphasia

If you’ve made your way to this post, it’s probably because you are currently caring for someone with aphasia.  Unfortunately, most people have never heard the word “aphasia” unless they or a significant other has received that diagnosis.  So without much knowledge on this diagnosis, it can be tricky to provide the best care for your loved one.  Although no two people are alike or present with the same aphasia characteristics, there are simple ways you can enhance your interaction and communication with your loved one.

Here is a list of easy-to-implement tips you can use while caring for someone with aphasia.  By using these tips, you can improve your communication and interaction with your loved one.

1. Reduce noise

A signature difficulty for people with aphasia is understanding spoken language.  If you are talking in a crowded restaurant or with a loud TV in the background, it will be harder for your loved one to understand what you’re saying.

2. Speak slowly

Slowing your rate of speech can enable a person with aphasia to understand you better.  It’s not necessary to speak unnaturally slow, but be mindful of your rate.  Add a few more pauses in between phrases or sentences to give your loved one time to process.

3. Use visuals

Visuals, such as pictures, gestures, drawings, and written words, can provide an extra layer of support for people with aphasia.  For example, if a person with aphasia cannot understand the spoken word “spoon,” you can provide additional support by showing him/her a picture of a spoon or demonstrating what to do with a spoon.  These visuals will allow the person with aphasia to successfully understand your message.

4. Shorten your sentences

It’s important that you speak to your loved one like an adult, but modify your sentence length so that processing is easier.  You can continue to talk about topics of interest (e.g., hobbies, politics, family), just keep it short and sweet.

5. Modify your questions

In everyday conversation, we use a lot of open-ended questions.  For example, we might say something like, “what are you doing today” or “why did you do that?”  However, for people with aphasia, these types of questions can be tricky.  Open-ended questions require them to find the word/words needed to answer the question, which may not be easy.  There are two different ways you can modify your questioning to assist your loved one.

1) Give possible answer choices for your questions.  For instance, if you wanted to ask, “what are you doing today,” you could provide pictures or written words of possible answers.  By providing choices, the person with aphasia will be better able to say an appropriate response or can point to the appropriate picture if s/he still can’t access the words to say them aloud.

2) Ask yes/no questions when possible.  For example, instead of saying, “what are you doing today,” you can ask “are you going to the store today?”

5 Household Objects that can Double as Toys

Children learn many things through play.  Unfortunately, though, toys can be expensive.  If you’re looking for some inexpensive play activities, look no further!  Check out this list of 5 household objects that can double as toys.

  • Cups
  • Toilet paper/paper towel roll
  • Tongs
  • Bowl/Container
  • Spoon

Watch this video to see how you can use these objects with your kids.  Remember the sky’s the limit and your imagination is endless!

Let’s Go Bowling: Supporting Communication at the Bowling Alley

It might seem odd that I’m writing a post about bowling on a beautiful, sunny spring day when most people are thinking about spending time outside, but it’s always good to think of activities we can do when the weather isn’t so great (in fact this holiday weekend, the forecast in northern NJ is all rain!).  Bowling to the rescue!  There is actually a great nationwide program for children to enjoy bowling all summer long — for free — called Kids Bowl Free.  Although adults don’t have the option to bowl completely free, there are package options where parents, grandparents, caregivers, etc. can bowl with their children at a significantly reduced cost.

Now that you know about the Kids Bowl Free program, I’m sure you’re wondering what on Earth bowling has to do with supporting communication. Am I right?  It’s not the first activity that comes to mind when you think of supporting communication; however, bowling is a social activity and any social activity is a great opportunity to encourage communication.  The best thing about bowling is that it can be enjoyed by children and adults alike, so any person, young or old, regardless of communication level or type of disability, can enjoy some time at the bowling alley and practice his/her skills.

At the bowling alley, we can support communication by:

  • Socializing with existing friends and making new ones
  • Practicing sharing and taking turns (e.g., It’s your turn.)
  • Talking about colors, shapes and sizes (e.g., red ball, round ball, big ball)
  • Learning about sequence (e.g., I go first, you go next, he goes last.)
  • Using exclamations (e.g., Strike! Good job!)
  • Talking about what’s happening (e.g., The pins fell down.  The ball rolled down the lane.)

That’s just a few ways you can work on communication skills at the bowling alley.  What indoor activities do you enjoy for practicing communication skills?

 

Stimulating Communication Without Spending a Dime

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.

Sing songs

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.

Check back for more activities in upcoming posts!