Build & Strengthen Language Skills at Home This Holiday Season
Ideas for helping children become more effective communicators
Ages 4-6 years
For children who struggle understanding and expressing language, the holidays can be a confusing and stressful time of year. Children with delayed or impaired language skills are often unable to answer questions from family members about recent events and often misunderstand abstract language during conversations. However, the holidays can be the perfect time to help your child build and strengthen language skills through authentic and genuine interactions. It’s easy to take common play activities and use them in a deliberate way to strengthen language. This holiday season, encourage your family members to get involved in these fun language building activities:
For Ages 4-6
For children ages 4-6 years, it’s important for them to be able to answer abstract questions in order for them to participate in conversations and effectively communicate with others. By age 6, children should be able to appropriately answer who, what, when, where and why questions. Children who receive speech therapy often have difficulty answering “wh” questions. For example, when asked, “Where did you eat?” they may respond, “Turkey.” Children with language difficulties often struggle to understand what each question word is asking. Explaining what each question word is asking helps improve their ability to answer questions more appropriately (ex. explain to them “where” asks for a place, “who” asks for a person). The use of visuals helps as well (ex. draw a house for “where”, draw a person for “who”). The holiday season provides many opportunities to practice this very important skill.
During the holidays, your child is out of school and has a lot of down time. Use this downtime to spend with your child enjoying a movie with family members, but while also working on helping them to improve their ability to answer abstract “wh” questions. Before watching the movie, review the “wh” question words and what each question word is asking (ex. “why” asks for a reason, “when” refers to a time). After the movie is over, take turns asking different questions about the events and characters in the movie.
For children ages 4-6 years, using specific and detailed language to describe words and events can be a challenge. Some children struggle to identify vocabulary from a detailed description (convergent naming) and other children struggle to describe words using precise and detailed language. This holiday season, help your child improve word retrieval and the ability to use descriptive language by playing this fun and easy game:
You can even play with vocabulary from holiday themes depending on the holiday you celebrate (ex. Christmas, Hanukkah, etc.).
In order to help your child practice understanding descriptive language, play a game of “I Spy” where a family member describes an object or item and your child has to guess the word. Have them play in many rooms of the house, outside, or when traveling in the car on long trips. For example, they could play by saying, “I spy something that is an appliance. It is usually in the kitchen and is used for cleaning dishes. You have to put soap in it and turn it on. It is next to the kitchen sink.” Your child then has to recall “dishwasher” from the description given.
In order to help your child practice using precise and descriptive language, let the child describe an object or item while the family member has to guess the word. If they need help, have the family member prompt them by asking your child to tell them something related to: the category it goes in, where it’s usually found, what you do with it or what it’s used for (function), what it’s made out of, what it looks like, and it’s parts (attributes).
For children ages 4-6 years, it is important for them to be able to identify and express abstract concepts. Children often struggle to understand and use spatial concepts (ex. on, under, behind) and quantity concepts (ex. more, less, most, least, empty, full). Difficulties with these abstract concepts can make it challenging for children to follow directions at home and in school. This holiday season, turn this simple activity in to an authentic learning experience:
Cooking is a great way to practice many different language skills. Find time this holiday season to cook a dish of your child’s choice. Be deliberate in the words you use as you prepare the dish. Review abstract concepts of space and quantity that you will need to understand and use in order to cook the dish. As you are cooking, find ways to incorporate those concepts and elicit them from your child (ex. “This cup is full of milk, but this one is _________.”). Help them learn to understand the concepts in order to follow the directions (ex. “Give me the bowl that is under the sink.”).
Speech-Language Pathologists are trained to help children use functional language skills and effectively communicate with others. If you have concerns about your child’s language development, contact a local Speech-Language Pathologist or consult with your child’s pediatrician to see if an evaluation is needed.
Build & Strengthen Language Skills at Home This Holiday Season: Ideas for helping children become more effective communicators / Ages 4-6 years
Catherine Tintle, M. Ed. CCC-SLP
Catherine Tintle is a Speech-Language Pathologist who is passionate about helping children develop and refine social skills, executive functions, and expressive language. She works for Carolina Pediatric Therapy and is an avid blogger and creator of speech therapy materials. Find out more about her on her website, TheCreativeSLP.com.
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