Summer is a fantastic time for developing your child’s motor, sensory and language skills. Certainly vacations can afford opportunities for gross motor activities or sensory exploration, but many fun activities can happen right in the comfort of your own backyard.
In addition to traditional running activities, there are other fun ways to develop strength, coordination and developmental skills.
- Play some old-fashioned games like hopscotch, jump rope and hula hoop (a smaller, weighted hula hoop for school-age children is easier to keep spinning).
- Practice weight shifting and soccer skills by kicking a ball back and forth using the top inside of your foot to kick the ball and then practice stopping the ball with one foot, balancing and then kicking it back.
- Since you’re outside, this is a great opportunity to play with toys that move far distances: Frisbees and toys that you can stomp on to project (soft) rocket-shaped toys.
- Messy play is also better outside, starting with bubbles. For smaller children, you can blow the bubbles and have them practice stomping on them (great sensory input too). Older children can blow bubbles for you or for friends; this helps to develop oral motor muscles, too.
Sensory exploration is also a key benefit to outside play. If you don’t want a sandbox or a pool, consider a small sand/water table or even a storage container that is about 3″ square. Water and sand play afford so many opportunities for sensory and fine motor exploration. Scooping, pouring and digging are all great activities. Don’t forget other senses like smell, vision and hearing; explore your yard and search for different colors and smells or lay on the grass and listen to all the sounds of summer. Talk with your child about all the things you found.
Increase their language skills by increasing their vocabulary! Talk about all the fun things you are doing, but make sure to keep it simple. It’s easier for a child to process and repeat a sentence such as, “Go get ball,” rather than, “Let’s go over there and get the green and white spotted ball.” Make sure to pause and give your child enough time to answer questions and imitate you.
Here are a few tips on how to improve your child’s expressive language skills:
- Expand on what your child says. If your child labels something “bubble,” you can expand it by saying, “I pop bubble.”
- Questioning: Ask questions while looking at books or pictures, and during real life experiences to encourage spontaneous language and thought.
- Commenting/Describing: Talk about daily activities as they are happening. Label objects and pictures as your child is attending to them or requesting them. Always try to use the correct pronunciation of the word as opposed to baby talk.
- Delayed Responses: Allow your child to use his language to request/comment/protest. Do not anticipate his every need before he has a chance to communicate it to you.
This article will simply get you started. Once you get outside with your child, let both of your imaginations run wild. Take advantage of the beautiful days we’re afforded because before long, we’ll be looking for cold weather play ideas or ways to make shoveling fun instead.
Don’t forget the sunblock and have a fantastic summer!
– Debbie Adsit, OTRL Supervisor, Pediatric Rehabilitation at the Beaumont Center for Children’s Rehabilitation and Kristina Frimmel, M.A. CCC-SLP Supervisor, Children’s Speech and Language Pathology