Speech and Language in the car

by Juliet Leonard
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Yes, really! 

Parents often share how difficult it is to find time in their day to carry out specific speech and language activities with their child. Family life is busy, and this is completely understandable.  Although not all activities work in the car, it can be a great place for conversations with your child and to focus on particular areas of speech and language. 

When in the car with your children, you are probably making either a routine journey (e.g. the school run) or a special trip (e.g. a day trip or holiday). During this time, your child is a ‘captive audience’, waiting to be occupied and entertained! Which is why it can be such a perfect place for language learning.

Car trips are also a great place to have ‘crucial conversations’ with children. If something is bothering your child or you have been meaning to discuss something with them, this may be a good neutral venue to start that conversation.

Out of my window…

With ever changing scenery and plenty of people to see, journeys give us a lot to talk about. These can be tailored to an area that your child needs to practise.

There are endless possibilities for language activities depending on what you see on your journey.  Here are some activity ideas for car journeys this summer.

Clap the syllables: Clapping the rhythm of words is an important skill for talking as well as reading and writing. Ask your child to look out of the window and find things that are 1 syllable (car, house), 2 syllables (tractor, garden), 3 syllables (caravan, butterfly) or even 4 (supermarket).

He and she: Practise using ‘he’ and ‘she’ by describing the people you pass. “She is wearing a hat.” “He is running.”

For the next 5 minutes: If your child has learned a new sound or language concept, but isn’t quite using it in conversation, this is a great opportunity for them to practise. Encourage your child to use their target sound or words during the journey and give them lots of encouragement and praise.  When they forget, remember to model for them correctly (E.g. Child: “I seed two sheeps” Adult: “Yes, you saw 2 sheep!”)

Vocabulary builder: Landscapes naturally have their own vocabulary – in the mountains you might see streams, rocks and sheep, whilst in the city you might spot trams, traffic lights and offices. Talk about what you see and help your child build links between words.

Sound hunt: If your child is working on a particular speech sound, you could play a game where you search for signs or objects that start with that sound. 

Recall your day: After a busy day of holiday fun, it’s easy to forget what you have done! Use the journey home as an opportunity to talk about where you went, what you did first, next and how you felt. This is a great activity for encouraging recall of information, talking using the past tense and using time and order words to help your child to sequence what they did.