As a speech-language pathologist, parents often ask, “How do I improve my child’s speech?” More often than not, these dedicated caregivers are actually referring to their child’s language skills and my answer is simple: travel more! While this answer may seem over simplistic or even unrealistic, I assure you, it is a sure-fire way to grow any child’s speech and language skills.
Of course, not everyone is able to hop a flight to Dubai or road trip to Cali, so what do I really mean by travel more? Expose your child to new people, places and experiences. There are tons of ways to introduce your child to the people, experiences, beliefs and customs of the world’s cultures, but I’ve found that packaging these lessons in the form of a trip – be it actual or virtual – leads to greater excitement about the lessons and actual language growth throughout the process. Here are three great ways to use travel concepts to grow your little one’s speech and language skills.
1. Play ‘Guess the Greeting’ + Grow Social Language Skills
Perhaps the most important part of being an effective communicator is having good social language skills. Knowing what to say, how to say it, when to say it and who to say it to, plus understanding all of the non-verbal ways we communicate (e.g., facial expressions) is tricky stuff! Work on this important skill by playing a game that I’ve dubbed ‘Guess the Greeting.’ The object of this game is to have your child earn points by correctly matching a greeting style (e.g., kiss on the cheek, handshake, etc.) to a culture – earn 5 points and win! Extend the learning by chatting about the differences between each culture and how this makes us all unique and special!
2. Plan a Trip + Grow Expressive Language Skills
A great way to increase expressive language skills is to ask and answer WH questions (who, what, where, what doing, when, why, how). Make practice fun by planning a trip – to another country, state, another city in your area, or just to a friend’s house! (Virtual field trips are also tons of fun). Make a list of 5-7 WH questions then practice asking and answering the questions with your child before (e.g., “Who do you think we will see?”), during (e.g., “Look! Who do you see over there?”) and after your trip (“Who did we see today?”). Talk about each answer and have fun reminiscing about a great time!
3. Craft a Passport + Grow Receptive Language Skills
Kids love collecting new and exciting things, so why not collect passport stamps as you journey, either in-person or on virtual trips, to local and distant lands! Grab some sheets of paper, a stapler (or glue, or tape), crayons or markers and some old magazines. Staple, glue or tape the sheets of paper together to form a book and cut out pictures from the magazines that represent places that you have traveled to. Give your child one and two-step directions to follow as you create, decorate and fill this passport booklet and help them grow receptive language skills in the process!
Dr. Tinita O. 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 at lolakoala.com and subscribe to get bi-weekly communication tips and tricks.