One of the most difficult aspects of speech and language therapy is making sure that children are engaged and motivated to take part. This is a big ask! All too often, speech and language activities are seen as repetitive or boring. We are asked to practice the same few target skills daily – is there any hope that we can make it fun?
My answer is yes! The caveat is that making speech and language practice fun takes lots and lots of creativity. Here are 5 tips for making speech and language fun this summer:
- Make the task active: Whatever you’re working on, try adapting the activity so that your child is using whole body movements, like running, throwing, or jumping instead of sitting still. There’s good evidence that using gross-motor movements can be beneficial during interventions. This strategy can be especially effective for children who struggle with their attention and listening skills. If you’re able to, remember to take a turn for yourself too and/or include other children. This will help your child by providing a good speech or language model from them to learn from, and if you look like you’re having fun, your child will think it’s fun too.
- Play outside: If the weather allows, try taking your speech and language session outside. This could be in the garden, at the park, in the woods, or at the beach – the world is your oyster! A change of scenery can help the activity to feel new again, and you can take your inspiration from nature to make small adaptations to old activities which might spark renewed interest.
- Tailor to your child’s interests: Does your child have a hobby, favourite toy, or favourite game? If so, find a way to use those interests to keep your child engaged in their speech and language activities. You can either use those interests during your speech and language session, making a new game that you know they will enjoy, or use their interests as a reward activity. You will need to think carefully about what the target of the activity is, and once you know what parts you need to keep, you can begin to make some tweaks. The choices available to you can seem overwhelming, so start small, and make bigger changes as your confidence grows. If your child receives support from a speech and language therapist or at school, you can always ask these professionals for their guidance and to check your ideas.
- Use the in-between time: It can be a lot of pressure to feel that you need to sit down for the next 30 minutes and do ‘homework’, and this might be daunting for your child too. Instead, why not try and use the small bits of ‘waiting’ time to support your child. We often recommend a ‘little and often’ approach. You might have a spare 5 minutes here and there while you’re waiting in the car, on the bus, hanging out the washing, or while the kettle’s boiling. Why not use this time to squeeze in some speech and language practice. It can help to have an activity pack on hand where your child can easily fetch it, or even store some pictures on your phone so you can get to work while you’re out and about.
- Leave them wanting more: When you’re on a roll, it’s so tempting to keep going. However, even favourite games can eventually wear out their welcome. Try to keep your activities short and sweet, and if your child asks for more, make a deal with them to play again later on or tomorrow. This doesn’t mean that supporting their speech and language needs to stop – as you’ll see in our ‘Everyday Activities’ and ‘Top Tips’ sections, there are plenty of ways to help your child with talking. Try to make sure that you use some of these everyday strategies and ideas as well as playing targeted games. This will help your child to develop their skills in real-life situations.
I hope you look forward to trying something new this summer!