If you're anything like me, you are OVER being quarantined! You are also on the hunt for fun and easy ways to keep the kids engaged and learning (and which also requires you to expend the least amount of energy possible). Well, look no further! I have discovered the beauty of the 'virtual field trip' and I am excited to share how you can go on a virtual adventure and grow your child's communication skills along the way!
There are SO many virtual experiences out there (check out this list of 40 that I LOVE) -- so far, my toddler and I have traveled to the San Diego Zoo, Yellowstone National Park and The Wildcat Sanctuary, to name a few, and we have had a ball talking about every and anything that we discover. The easiest way to spark up a good convo with a toddler? Focus on describing! As you explore each destination, ask questions to build your child's describing and vocabulary skills. Check out some examples below:
"What colors do you see?"
"What shape is that?"
"Is that animal's skin furry or smooth?"
"How many are there?"
"Does that look yummy or yucky?"
"How do you think that feels?"
"How do you think that tastes?"
"The lion's skin is furry. Look at your skin. Is it the same or different?"
Be sure to mix closed-ended questions (questions that only require a yes/no response) and open-ended questions so that your child doesn't get frustrated or overwhelmed by demands to produce a huge amount of language in a relatively short period of time -- after all, this is supposed to be a fun activity! The goal is to slip questions in naturally and at a pace that is comfortable for your child so that he/she barely realizes that they are practicing and learning important language skills. I typically start by asking one or two closed-ended questions followed by one open-ended question. If she's particularly interested in the virtual experience, then I throw in one to two more open-ended questions before we move on to anther aspect of the experience (e.g., look at a different live cam, explore another area of the park, etc.).
Don't forget to build-up those vocabulary skills by introducing new describing words! Teaching your child new adjectives is a great way to grow their language skills and is also a critical tool to empower them. I'm sure you have never thought of a mere adjective as an empowering tool, but it is! Imagine how much more quickly your child can get his wants and needs met if he is able to say, "Daddy, I want the green truck" as opposed to "Daddy, I want the truck" followed by you pointing to each of his 50 trucks and being met with, "NO! Not that one!" a thousand times. Yes, this is a super basic example, but the truth is that a larger vocabulary makes it MUCH easier to communicate more effectively and efficiently and who doesn't want that?!
-Dr. Kearney aka Dr. T
Dr. Tinita Ortega Kearney is a speech-language pathologist who hails from New York. She owns a speech therapy private practice and lives to empower families to be their child’s very best advocate and resource. Check out her newest children’s book series at lolakoala.com and subscribe to get weekly communication tips and tricks.