April showers bring May flowers… the old adage goes. As the sun shines after the rain, I feel myself longing for summer days. Who else is with me?! Even with beautiful weather it can be a challenge finding activities to keep kids occupied outside. So, here are nine simple but fun outdoor activities to promote speech skills.
- Bubbles – Bubbles are always a hit no matter how old your child is. Not only are bubbles fun, but they provide countless opportunities to practice speech skills. You can label and comment throughout the activity, practicing requests such as ‘open’ and ‘close’, ‘blow bubbles’, ‘more bubbles’, ‘pop’, etc. Use adjectives to describe the bubbles such as ‘big’ ‘small’ ‘soapy’ ‘wet’ and ‘sticky’. Bubbles are fabulous motivational activity that prompt kids to communicate spontaneously. In addition, oral motor strength can be developed by blowing bubbles.
2. Chalk – Chalk is another timeless activity that provides hours of fun. Have your child practice letters, numbers, colors, or categories of words. See how many items a child can write down that fit into the category of flowers, animals, transportation, etc. Have younger kids draw a picture, then ask then to describe it to you. Or, use chalk to target articulation! Write a series of words targeting a specific speech sound, and have your child cross them off or ‘hop’ onto each word as she practices.
3. Bouncy Ball – Using a bouncy ball for games outside is another simple, easy way to foster speech and language. You can teach verbs like “roll”, “kick” “bounce” and “throw” when using a ball. Wait for your child to make a request, and then follow through with the requested action. If your child says ‘kick ball!”, then kick the ball to her. When sending the ball back and forth, wait for your child to verbalize a request for the ball (more ball, throw ball, etc).
4. Water – What child doesn’t love water? Speech and water go hand in hand. Fill up a bucket or water table. Fill it with fun water safe toys. Then, encourage your child to narrate actions they are taking with the toys using words like: “pour”, “sink”, “float”, or “splash”. Have her label the items floating in the water or make choices for additional items they want to add (do you want to put the ball or the boat in the water next?).
5. Playground – The playground offers many teachable moments for developing speech and language. Kids can make requests for which activity they want to do (swing, slide, monkey bars, etc.). They can also learn words like ‘up’ and ‘down’, ‘stop’ and ‘go’, and ‘fast’ and ‘slow’. Since many toddlers rely on parents to help them navigate the playground, this setting naturally requires a child to request for another push on the swing and another turn on the slide. Opportunities abound for children to ask for help.
6. I Spy – Find a shady spot outside to play a game of I spy. Provide clues that have great descriptive features such as color, shape, size, or function. This helps kids develop good inductive reasoning as well as practicing basic concepts like colors. Kids will have a great time taking turns guessing!
7. Scavenger hunt – This is a great activity that will keep kids busy for a while! Make a list simple or complex to fit your child’s age and ability. Then go on a hunt for these items together (items can be things like flowers, rocks, feathers, tree branches, leaves, plants, acorns, or whatever else you can find. Ask ‘wh’ questions such as ‘what is this?” “what does it do?” “where did you find it?” and model appropriate responses as needed. This game creates dialogue that can help your child’s ability to answer questions, reason, create sentences, and target vocabulary. You can practice following directions too (e.g. “Find the leaf first, then a feather.” OR “Put an acorn on top of a leaf.”)
8. Simon Says – This one goes without saying- it is a great activity to practice following directions. You can make this as complex or simple as needed. During this activity your child can practice listening skills, following directions and even vocabulary. Provide one step or multi step directions. Switch roles and allow your child to be the “Simon” to practice expressive language skills.
9. Garden – Kids love to imitate adults and they love to play in dirt! Children love playing in the soil, which is why having your child help you garden can be the perfect speech and language opportunity. Practice following directions, sequencing, and asking ‘wh’ questions. Discuss the steps needed to plant a seed or flower. Use words like ‘first, second, finally’ to teach the sequence of the directions. You can also target articulation by allowing your child to dig another hole with each correct production of a word.
… now go outside and have some fun!