The days are getting cold here now and the motivation for getting outside is at an all-time low at our house at the moment. So I thought it might be time to come up with some fun games to get the kids out for some fresh air, get their vitamin D boost and to burn up some of that abundant supply of energy! Developing speech and language skills is most certainly not restricted to the indoor domain, and if you ever watch a kid when you finally do get them outside, then you will see there is so much stimulation, exploration and discovery - it really is the ideal place for working on communication skills. So why not try one (or all) of these ideas to get the kids playing outside, and target their speech and language skills at the same time!
1. Trampoline Lotto
There are SO many language and speech skills you can target on the trampoline, all while the kids just think they are bounding around having fun! If you have a trampoline that has pictures on the mat already then you may be able to use those, but you can just as easily make your own – all you need is some chalk and some basic drawing skills and voila – a ready made picture board that can be used for any of the ideas listed below!
- Following instructions and Receptive Vocabulary. Direct your child to jump on a picture on the mat. Make the instructions longer and increase complexity by asking them to jump on 2 or more pictures, or put different bodyparts on different pictures.
- Categories: Direct your child to jump on a picture that fits within a specific category. E.g. Jump on something that is a type of transport. Jump on a picture of a vegetable. Jump on two things that go together etc.
- Temporal concepts and Sequencing: E.g. Jump on the bird after you jump on the car, jump on the carrot before you jump on the feather etc.
- Concepts and descriptive language: E.g. Jump on something that is soft, jump on the thing we use for cutting etc.
- Phonological awareness: E.g. ‘Jump on the picture that starts with the sound sssss’, ‘Jump on the picture that rhymes with _____’, ‘jump on the picture that ends with the sound mmmmm’ etc.
2. Super skittles
You don’t even need to own a skittles set to play this – make your own from a few water/drink bottles taken from the recycling! Depending on your child’s level of ability and the windy-ness factor on the day, it may be useful to weigh the bottles down with a few inches of water so they don’t fall over too easily. Then stand back and roll a ball and knock them down.
What does this have to do with speech and language I hear you ask? This activity can easily target a range of language skills – just tape some target pictures for a speech or language goal to the bottles and then see how many your child can knock over. If you are working on practising a certain speech sound, stick pictures starting with the target sound on the skittles. Or perhaps you could target sentence generation and vocabulary – by having your child make up a sentence with the word from the bottle, then asking them whether they are silly or sensible sentences. Or have your child work on their narrative skills by making up a story using all the pictures from the bottles they knocked over.
3. Nerf gun target practise
Not all parents love nerf guns, and that was me for a while, but with two active boys and a girl who loves to do everything her big brothers do, I have long since given up that battle. Still, I‘d rather they be aiming at something safe and productive (rather than at me!) and if they can be learning something at the same time that is an added bonus.
I first came across this idea from this wonderful speech and language blogging site – Speechbloguk, run by two British speech therapists (Elizabeth and Helen). And I have to say it has worked a treat for some of my more difficult to motivate clients (they certainly don’t feel like they are doing ‘therapy’!). I also love that because it actually gives the game a functional purpose (shooting a specific target as oppose to just random shooting), this can actually extend the time and attention a child can give the activity – good for kids who have difficulties with attention. So how do I make it a speech and language activity? Stick pictures for any target goal outside around the house, on trees etc with a bit of blue tack. I like to make the kids wait inside, so they have to ‘hunt’ for the pictures and then aim the nerf gun and shoot the pictures! Goals could include getting your child to say the target word, use it in a sentence, say what category it belongs to, think of a rhyming word etc.
We got our quoit set from Kmart for $6 and all 3 of my kids (8, 5 and 3) love playing with it. Make a pile of target words or sound pictures and have the kids say the sound/word every time they try and throw a quoit over the peg. This can be great for getting multiple repetitions of a sound in isolation, or repetitions of a specific word with a target sound.
5. Treasure Hunt
I don’t know a single child that doesn’t love a treasure hunt. It does require a bit of effort on the organisers part, but the joy and motivation to participate makes it so worth it, and can be the perfect way to get your kids away from the screens and engaged in an outdoor activity.
There are lots of websites online that have clues already written up for you – brilliant! Then there are a couple of ways to focus in on a specific speech or language goal. One way is for each clue that reveals the next location to also be paired with a target word or speech activity that the child has to complete. Alternatively, make up your own clues with the speech and language goal you are working on included in the clue (e.g. clues with lots of words that have your target sound, clues with irregular past tense or pronouns, clues with temporal concepts such as before/after etc). Whichever you choose, it is almost certainly going to be a fun-filled and exciting activity for your child.
6. Scavenger hunt
Hide a number of objects outside around your house and then give your child a checklist and tell them to go and find them! Objects could start or end with your child’s target sound, or objects could need to rhyme with the picture on the checklist, or when your child returns with the objects you could have them make up a sentence/story including each of the objects before they can claim their treasure (chocolate coins or dollar store goodies are always a winner!).
A favourite game from my childhood, when all the kids in the street would be out in the dark, shining a flashlight to try and find others hiding in the dark! There is something so exciting about being out in the dark – it’s has a high motivation for older children who sometimes need that extra push to do speech and language practise. Obviously, this one is probably better suited to older children, or at least, younger children with adult help. Hide target pictures or objects out in the garden in the later afternoon/early evening and then go hunting for them with a torch – saying the word as you find them.
So there you have it! When the kids start to reach for the ipad (again) or you hear that dreaded call of ‘I’m bored’ over the upcoming school holidays, you are now armed and ready to send the kids outdoors for a whole heap of fun, and some speech and language development too!