During this challenging time, many children have experienced changes to their daily routine, and this has created anxiety. Families and carers have reported that it has been very difficult but some of the most positive ways they have found to support their child’s wellbeing during lockdown have been by spending quality time:
- exercising (particularly in the fresh air)
- enjoying the natural world and animals
- singing, listening to or making music
- playing games with siblings and parents
- growing vegetables and plants
- promoting healthy eating and getting plenty of sleep
- cooking, baking, reading and telling stories
- interacting with others via phone or social media.
Why have these activities been beneficial?
They all have a common thread – that of connection. Whether that is quality time spent talking with close family and friends or concentrating on activities. They have given a balance to a child’s schoolwork and most importantly, they have been creative. Many parents have reported that they have been given space to really listen to what their child is thinking and saying. They have found time as a family to find out information about the world around them and feel that their child has learnt valuable life and social skills. Memories have been created and they feel that they will be able to relax and talk about this challenging time in the future.
So how can parents develop and build on the activities that they have been doing?
For all children, but particularly for children with SLCN, the extra opportunities to be creative have improved their wellbeing and development. Creativity gives children a voice and helps them to express their feelings and ideas. Through focusing on practical activities children are encouraged to be curious, articulate ideas and make choices. Their ideas are seen to be welcomed and valued.
Here are my top tips for developing your child’s speech and language skills every day:
- Concentrate on developing communication and thinking skills based on the child’s interests. Encourage friendship and social interaction focusing on the child’s strengths, sharing their dreams and ideas. Play games and encourage them to be curious, to learn new things and use their imagination.
- Create challenges and focus on practical activities e.g. create a new ball game that can be played outside or design a logo for a t-shirt. Encourage the child to use their natural skills of drawing, sketching, designing and talking about how they could solve problems.
- Promote thinking skills by asking questions. You can scaffold thinking skills by giving choices. Remember that new solutions come from different thinking and talk about how changes could be made to the original ideas.
- Work on building children’s vocabulary and understanding, by demonstrating or constructing things e.g. making models.
- Develop listening and memory skills. Check to see if a child is concentrating by asking questions or asking them to repeat what they have just heard. This will help to develop active listening skills.
- Focus on being resilient. Remember to give empathy to a child when they are struggling with a solution and always encourage them to keep going when the going gets tough!
- Finally, if your child makes a mistake, approach it positively. Everyone makes mistakes but that is actually one of the best ways to learn.
With the summer holidays approaching, now is a great time to spend quality time with your children and plan your creative activities and most of all have FUN.
Susan is the author of ‘Creative Genius Journal’ which presents fun thinking challenges encouraging children to respond by talking, drawing and making prototypes and is offering Creative Genius for £6.95 with free P&P (at 28% saving). Please email Susan at firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and address, stating ‘Offer for Speech Link Clients’ and she will send you a link to PayPal.