Learning Language through Natural Routines: Playing on the Playground

The is the second article in my series about teaching language to children through everyday activities. Children learn language best when it is in context and repeated often. The following activities provide plenty of opportunities for repetition.

Pre-linguistic/Play Skills – Your child will engage in turn taking routines.

Stand a few feet away from your child. If your child is not yet able to kick a ball, you can sit with him on a blanket on the ground with a short distance between you. Kick or roll the ball toward your child. Each time one of you touches the ball, say, “ball.” If he doesn’t kick or roll it back to you, you can prompt by saying, “Your turn,” or, “Kick the ball to me.” Play the game for as long as your child is willing, and then try to get just one more turn out of him. This will help with increasing his attention span.

This is also a great activity to involve older siblings. You can have the older child model the activity so the younger child sees what to do, or you can encourage the older child to play the game with his/her younger sibling, and you can assist and prompt as needed.

Receptive Language – Your child will understand the prepositions up and down.

If your child is able to go up and down small stairs without assistance, place him on the middle step of an age-appropriate play structure. Give your child directions that use the prepositions like “Go up the steps,” or, “Go down the steps.” Be sure to emphasize the preposition as you give the direction. If your child is unable to complete the task, you can prompt by pointing where you want him to go as you repeat the direction. You can also physically assist him to go up or down as you repeat the direction.

The play structure can also be used to expose your child to these words in context without expecting him to carry out an instruction. You can narrate what your child is doing, emphasizing the prepositions. Examples: “You’re going up the steps.” “Now you’re going down the slide.”

Toddler on slide

Expressive Language – Your child will use a word to request an action.

Place your child in the swing, but do not begin pushing him. Wait to see if he will use a word like “go” or “push” to request that you start. If he doesn’t say anything, you can ask, “What do you want?” You can also model the word for your child to imitate. Once your child makes a request and you start pushing, stop the swing after a minute, and wait for another request.

If your child is working on using signs (and is in an infant/toddler swing, rather than one that requires him to hold on with two hands), you can encourage the use of signs (please, more) to make requests.

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