11 Tips on how to develop communication skills at the park

The summer holidays, bank holidays, and some (hopefully) sunnier weather are great excuses to take your Speech and Language therapy practice out and about.  The park is a great place to start!

There’s a lot of great opportunities to practice communication skills, and no, it’s not just your child perfecting the phrase ‘I want an ice-cream!’

Working on Speech at the Park - 4 activities

  • If your child is practicing a certain sound, take your pictures with you. Set challenges, such as ‘say a word for every bar of the monkey bars, then try to swing across’.  Engage the competitive instincts of your child and maybe join in!
  • Stepping stones. You could use hoops, a set of steps in the park, or even the paving slabs on a quiet path as your stepping stones.  Take turns to say one of the child's practice words - if you say a word clearly or with the target sound, you can jump onto the next stepping stone.  Your child decides whether you said the word clearly/with the target sound, and you decide for your child!  Have some sort of celebration or reward planned for the end of the stepping stones.
  • Word catch. Every time you catch the ball, you have to say one of the target words.  Change the word every few turns. If you say the wrong word, or drop the ball, you're out!
  • Play syllable I-spy. For children practising syllable clapping, or using this strategy to help make their speech clearer, you can play a different version of the classic game, but spying things with one, two or three syllables in their name.  To make it easier, you can give the first sound as another clue once your child has made a few guesses
    • One syllable – bench, tree, bird, swings, ball
    • Two syllables – ice-cream, pushchair, pigeon
    • Three syllables – butterfly, roundabout

Understanding of language -  3 ideas for the park

  • Scavenger hunt! Tell your child 3 or 4 items to find (and possibly bring back to you).  This could be sights around the park, e.g. a statue, a green bench, or natural items e.g. a long stick, a small green leaf, a daisy.  This works on your child's memory for spoken language, and if you add in adjectives such as long or small, you are also helping them understand basic concepts.
  • Listen and do – ‘run to the statue, then hop to the green bench’, ‘walk to the slide, then jump to the swings’- your child is practising following instructions with 4 key words and burning off some energy! See the language e-mail course if you need a refresher on key words.
  • Under or over? In or on? Challenge your child to find as many things they can go ‘under’ as possible, thinking creatively... they can go under the climbing frame, but can they also go under the slide, the picnic blanket, and is there a bridge they can go under too?  Walk around together, saying ‘let's go under it’ as you go under.  Think of the rhyme 'we're going on a bear hunt' and chant in the same way - you could read this story together before you go to the park.  Once you've found everything you can go under, you can try finding things you can go over, on or in!

Use of spoken language - 4 things to do

  • Drama kings and queens. Act out a story together, take photos, then tell the story to someone else when you get home.  You could act out a favourite story, or make up your own.  You could give your child a starter scenario to get the creative juices going - how about pretending they've landed on an alien planet, or just discovered some buried treasure...
  • Take a toy. Explain to a younger child that this is the toy’s first time to the park, so they’ll need to describe the park to their toy, and maybe even explain what to do on the equipment.  Include some pretend play of the toy joining in on the equipment or finding delicious things to eat, and you’re also working on play skills
  • Give your child a turn to set you a ‘listen and do’ challenge (see above). The challenge for them is to explain clearly what they want you to do, using a range of different action words – and then correctly remember what they asked you to do!
  • Cloud spotting. Lie back on a picnic blanket and practice describing what you can see in the clouds.  Instead of just pointing out the dragon you can see, show your child the ferocious dragon with a pointy tail.  If your child can see a banana, can they describe the banana as long, curvy, or spotty?

Written by Alys Mathers, Speech and Language Therapist

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