In this, the third article in my series about teaching language to children through everyday activities, you will find some simple ways to enhance your child’s language development through the routine of cleaning up toys.
Pre-linguistic/Play Skills – Your child will sort objects.
Start by having your child sort two different types of toys (ex: cars and blocks). Provide a bin for each type of toy with a picture of the toy on the outside. Model the activity by picking up a toy and saying, “It’s a block. I’ll put it in the box with the blocks.” Then have your child pick up an object, tell her what it is, and ask her to put the toy in the correct box. Continue taking turns a few times. Once your child can complete the task accurately, have her finish on her own.
You can make the task harder by increasing the number of toys to be sorted.
Bonus: If you label several toy bins with pictures, your child may be able to clean up on her own after playtime.
Receptive Language – Your child will put away toys on request.
Cleaning up is the natural end to playtime. Tell your child it’s time to put away the toys. (If you keep your toys sorted and you have worked on this with your child, she should sort the toys into the appropriate bins. If all of the toys go in one big box or basket, she can put them all in there.) Wait for her to start putting away the toys on her own. If she does not, repeat the direction. You can model by putting away one toy yourself. If that doesn’t work, you can further prompt by physically assisting her to pick up a toy and drop it into the container. By consistently requiring that your child clean up after playtime, eventually less prompting will be necessary, until all you will need to say is “Clean up.”
You can also help the routine along by singing the Clean Up Song: “Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere. Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share.”
Many children will actually start to sing the song to themselves as they engage in their clean up routine.
Expressive Language – Your child will use two-word combinations
As you and your child are cleaning up, model a two-word phrase to narrate what’s happening as you place each item in its container (car in; block in). Encourage your child to imitate. Once she starts to imitate after each toy, pause and wait with an expectant look on your face for her to say the phrase on her own.
I hope you can see that you can aid in your child’s language development by making minor tweaks to the things you and your child do each day. Look for my next article in this series where I will give you tips on how you can help your child’s play skills and receptive and expressive language during daily tooth brushing.