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Activity Tips for Speech and Language

Scroll down for fun activities that are great for building speech, language, and emergent literacy skills.

Special Occasions

Happy Father’s Day! You are your child’s best toy, and dads can be especially fun! Click to find out why rough and tumble games like chase and horsie riding are great for language learning.

Enjoy Mother’s Day – Check with your local library for special books for Mother’s Day. Share the story together many times. Re-reading a story creates opportunities to talk about different things each time. (Letters, new words, how and why things happen in the story). Try “On the Night You Were Born”, by Nancy Tillman or “Mama’s Day with Little Gray”, by Aimee Reid and Laura J. Bryant.

Celebrate Family Day by cooking a meal with your kids. Turn off the phone and screens and get the kids involved with making a meal. It’s important to sit down for a meal together every day. Meal time is a great time to build language skills as well as good eating habits.

Make your own play dough for Valentine’s Day. Mix 1 cup of flour, half a cup of salt, 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar, 1 cup of boiling water, 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, and a few drops of red food colouring. Try dividing the batch up and making different shades of red and pink. Then make play dough cakes and cookies and have a party!

Make heart-shaped cookies or a cake today, or try this fun family activity!

These fun Valentine crafts are great for fine motor skills as well as learning new words like heart, transparent, imagination!

Make valentines. Cut some big hearts out of paper or cardboard and get creative with paint, crayons, glue, pasta shapes, stickers, etc. Make sure you have your own Valentine to work on.

Take a look at this craft project for St. Patrick’s Day. Talk about the different shapes you can cut out to make a shamrock. Enjoy St. Patrick’s Day!

It’s Earth Day! Go to your local library and sign out a book about how young kids can help to look after our planet. Talk about the ideas in the book and choose one or two you will try. Kids learn important language and reasoning skills when you use thinking words like “why” and “how” to talk through a decision. For example, “Why are plastic water bottles a problem?  How could we take drinks to the park instead?” Many libraries also have park and conservation area passes that you can sign out.

Add some language and literacy fun to your family’s Easter egg hunt. Print off one of the children’s stories here. Hide the individual pages wherever you are hiding eggs. When your children are hunting for eggs they can collect the pages too, and later you can all put the pages in order. Sequencing is an important skill for kids to learn. Use words like first, next, last, before, and after as you sort the pages. Then cuddle up and read the book together!

A super craft to create for Easter. During this activity talk to your children about spring. Talk about all the parts of a chick, where you may find chicks, read a book about chicks. Help your child with different shapes and talk about each shape.

Visit your local library for special books for Mother’s Day. Share the story together many times. Re-reading a story creates opportunities to talk about different things each time. (Letters, new words, how and why things happen in the story). “On the Night You Were Born”, by Nancy Tillman; “Mama’s Day with Little Gray”, by Aimee Reid and Laura J. Bryant.

Happy Canada Day! Join in your local Canada Day celebration. Practice singing O Canada and make a flag. Working on a project together is a great way to develop communication and thinking skills.

Happy Canada Day! Plan a Canada Day celebration. Practice singing O Canada and make a flag. Working on a project together is a great way to develop communication and thinking skills.

Every day this month sing O Canada to your children so they will be ready for Canada Day!

Hallowe’en fun for tiny hands: try this easy ghost craft with your toddler. Teach new words like “sticky,” “fluffy,” and “spooky,” while you take turns sticking on the cotton balls.

Carve a pumpkin with your child. Talk about the shape, the colour, and how it feels. Is the pumpkin’s face happy, scary, angry?

This Remembrance Day activity for preschoolers will let you introduce the idea of what this special day is about, while practising beginning scissor skills.

Sing Christmas songs with your preschoolers. Singing with children helps them to learn language. They love the repetition, and the music helps them remember the words. Songs with actions are especially fun.

Play Christmas music – stamp your feet, tap the table, clap your hands and wiggle your hips to the beat. Repeat the words to the songs.

Some toys are just better than others for encouraging young children’s development. Here are some fun suggestions for the very young people on your holiday shopping list. And don’t forget that every child’s favourite plaything is you!

Talk about the New Year. Pull out a calendar and talk about special days in the year ahead.

Spring

Plant seeds. Bean seeds are great because they grow fast. Your child can spoon dirt into a cup, bury the seeds, and water the plant every day. For extra fun and learning, take photos of the planting process and of the plant as it grows. Then make a picture book together to tell the story.

Include your child in planning and planting your garden. Keep it simple and enjoy gardening in your own back yard.

Let’s explore spring – Jump into puddles with your boots and say fun words such as “squish, squash, splash”. Explore the mud together. Use a stick to draw pictures, letters and shapes and talk about each one.

Another fun spring craft idea! Talk about farms animals, read a book on farm animals and enjoy great interaction between you and your child as you cut and paste your way to creating an adorable lamb!

Have everyone enjoy the fun on this Early Spring Scavenger Hunt!

Spring is coming! Here’s a fun idea for preschoolers that is great for building language and literacy skills. Go for a walk and look for signs of spring. Dig under the snow if you have to! Take photos or draw pictures of what you see. When you get home ask your child what you should print on each picture. Say the letters as you print them. Put the pictures together as a book or poster that your child can show to others.

Visit your local library and look for some of these great books about Spring for toddlers and preschoolers.

Sunny days and cool nights make Maple Syrup. Bundle up and take a walk through a maple sugar bush. Talk about how maple syrup is made. Use descriptive words like sweet, sticky, evaporate. Stop, look and listen to the sounds of Spring.

Go for a walk in the woods and look for signs of Spring like mud, wildflowers, buds on trees, and bugs. Take some pictures so you can make a collage or story strip about your outing when you get home. Ask your child what you should print below each picture.

Take a walk and talk about nature’s Spring changes. Take binoculars and look for robins. You can make your own binoculars with 2 toilet paper rolls and some string.

It’s Spring! Get outside and play! Kids learn best when they’re having fun and experiencing new things. Check out these ideas.

If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb – follow this link for fun activities.

Keep track of the weather on your calendar at home each day.

Bring crayons and paper outdoors to make a book of nature rubbings.

Take a walk together and talk about what plants/flowers you see that are starting to grow. Talk about the changes you see happening outside. Use short simple sentences.

Go to the park or out in the back yard and pretend to be different animals. Walk like the animals and make their sounds. Try making animal footprints in the snow or dirt. Talk about which animals are fast and slow, loud and quiet, etc.

Children’s movement skills will progress at different speeds, and encouraging your child to spend time in active free play will not only help improve your child’s ability to move his/her body but will also promote physical activity levels and overall physical fitness. Check out the Canadian Paediatric Society info sheet on physical activity for kids. Be sure to talk while you play so that your child is learning language too.

Take a Sound Walk together. Talk about sounds you hear a lot and all the new sounds you hear in your area.

Summer

Let’s Pretend! Imaginary play is an important stage of play and cognitive development. Go to the beach in your imagination! Encourage your children to pretend they are swimming in the ocean waves, walking barefoot over the hot sand, or surfing. Pretend to be sharks or crabs doing the crab walk. Have a pretend picnic. Have fun, and don’t forget to talk about what you are doing!

Beach Science: Dig a hole in the sand and fill with water. Drop stones, twigs and other objects found on the beach, in and see what sinks and floats. Encourage your child to guess first, and talk about why some things float and some do not.

Plan a Picnic together. Have your child talk about what you need: food/blanket/hat.

Create a marching band with spoons and tin bowl. Take your band outside and sing to the marching beat.

Rainy Day? Take your children to a local museum. When you get home draw pictures of what you saw.

Hooray – summer is here! Make regular trips to the local library to celebrate summer! Check out some of these books.

Get outside and get creative with this simple fun idea for rock and sidewalk painting. Use the opportunity to teach your child new colour words like turquoise, mauve, tan.

Play out in the rain – grab your umbrellas – go for a walk, make mud soup, sing in the rain, and hunt for worms.

Check out these creative activities and songs on bumble bees and enjoy them with your child! Talk about how bees make the same sound as the letter “z”.

Take a book to the park, to the shore, to the woods, just out the door!

Go on a hike and take photos to make a homemade book. What’s your story?

Art at the Beach – While at the beach collect sticks, stones, shells and leaves and make some beach art. Give your artwork a title and take a picture of it. Talk about your collection of beach items. Sign your artwork.

Scavenger Hunt – Hide seashells around the house or outside and have fun looking for them. Use paper shapes if you can’t get real ones. Count the seashells with your child and talk about the different colours and shapes.

Imagination Pantomime – Encourage your children to pretend they are swimming in the ocean waves. Pretend they are walking barefoot over the hot sand. Pretend they are surfing. Pretend they are a crab and do the crab walk (to do the crab walk you need to sit on the floor and rise up and walk backwards on your hands and feet). Do these actions with your children. Have fun!

On a rainy day do a puzzle together. Choose simple wooden puzzles with lots of colours. Talk about the puzzle pieces as they come together.

On a rainy day get out the play dough. Shape it into letters and numbers. Talk about what you are making.

Go for a walk. What colours can you find in nature? Look high and low to find the colours of a rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple). Compare things using words like: pale, lighter/darker, etc.

Beat the heat and try this homemade ice cream in a bag recipe!

Let your child go in the mud with bare feet. Talk about how the mud feels in between their toes, wet, squishy, cold, yucky.

Blow bubbles together outside in the park. Use words like huge, tiny, and a little, a lot, more.

Take a summer stroll together and look for as many things that are round: wheel, merry-go-round, ball.

Go for a walk. Talk about what you see. Pick up an interesting stone or leaf along the way and take it home. Let your child show it to other people and tell about where he/she found it.

Scavenger hunt. Make a list with words and pictures, and then go hunting for everything on the list. This is a great indoor or outdoor activity for older preschoolers.

Play Follow the Leader. Use words like under, over, through, between, behind, in front of. Introduce new words.

Fall

Get outside and get creative with this simple fun idea for rock and sidewalk painting. Use the opportunity to teach your child new colour words like turquoise, mauve, tan.

Go on a walk and encourage your child to look for signs of wildlife. Use this free nature scavenger hunt printable. For each thing your child finds, ask how it got there and what it’s for. Kids learn a lot by thinking and talking about “how” and “why” questions, and not just “what.”

Is your young child having trouble adjusting to the time change? A good bedtime routine is the best way to make sure everyone has a good sleep, and is a great opportunity for language learning. Check out our newsletter for bedtime tips

Take a walk on the wild side together. Play wild style Simon Says such as “Simon Says, twirl like a leaf and hop like a rabbit”. Challenge your child’s listening skills by making the instructions longer and more complicated.

Here’s a fun fall tree-painting activity. Turn this activity into a language-learning opportunity by introducing some new colour words (rust, scarlet…) and asking your child to guess what will happen when the colours are mixed. When you’re done with the trees, try mixing other colours for flowers, grass, etc.

It’s apple picking season! Visit an apple orchard with your child. Talk about the shapes, sizes, and colours of the apples and bring some home for eating and baking. Make apple sauce or an apple pie together and let your child help with counting, measuring, stirring and adding ingredients.

Go on a nature scavenger hunt. Make a list with words and pictures, and then go hunting for everything on the list. This is a great outdoor activity for older preschoolers. Some ideas are: leaves of different colours, stones of different shapes, a tree with no leaves, squirrels, a rake, pumpkins, acorns.

Find out what programs your Library is running this fall and sign up your toddler or preschooler. Look for these books while you are there; “Mouse’s First Fall” by Lauren Thompson; “Animals in Fall” by Martha E.H. Rustad and “When the Leaf Blew In” by Steve Metzger. Lanark County Libraries and Leeds Grenville Libraries.

Take a walk outside together and talk about what plants/trees/flowers you see are starting to change due to the fall season approaching.

Try this activity while the leaves are still around. Use sequencing words like first, next, then and last. This helps to teach your child how to organize thoughts and stories.

Go outside on a leaf hunt with your child. Pick leaves from different trees and talk about their names (maple, oak, beech), different shapes and colours. Keep some and talk about what they look like as they dry.

Bring crayons and paper outdoors to make a book of nature rubbings.

Go to the library – find: “Clifford’s First Autumn” by Norman Bridwell and “Nuts to You” by Lois Ehlert.

Go on a walk and encourage your child to look for signs of wildlife. Use this free nature scavenger hunt printable. For each thing your child finds, ask how it got there and what it’s for. Kids learn a lot by thinking and talking about “how” and “why” questions, and not just “what.”

Go the playground. Use lots of new words while at the playground like: high, low, fast, slow. Talk about how it felt to soar like a bird on the swing.

Winter

Visit your local EarlyON Centre this winter. Check out the schedule of playgroups, other early learning programs, and parent support available at the EarlyON Centre in Lanark and in Leeds Grenville. Preschoolers need opportunities to play with other young children to help develop their social skills and language skills.

Take some scoops and plastic containers outside. Sand shovels and buckets or big serving spoons and yogurt tubs work well. Have fun filling the containers with snow, packing it down, and dumping the snow out to make a snow castle or a tower.

Have a winter picnic indoors. Have your child help you plan what you need for your picnic. Let your child pick the snacks and an activity to play on the picnic blanket.

Visit the library and look for these wonderful books to share with your children when the first snowflakes fall.

Sing holiday songs with your preschoolers. Singing with children helps them to learn language. They love the repetition, and the music helps them remember the words. Songs with actions are especially fun.

Make snow letters with your preschooler. Find sticks and trace your child’s name in the snow. Try stomping out huge letters in an open area. Talk about other things that start with the same letter.

Get outside and play! Kids learn best when they’re having fun and experiencing new things. Check out these ideas!

On a cold winter day follow this link to find a great play dough activity for you and your preschooler.

Get a ruler and measure the level of snow at different times of the day. Talk about why it changes: It’s melting. It’s snowing a lot.

Take a nature walk and talk about the colours and the weather. Talk about fun things to do in the snow – make a snow angel, build a snowman, make footprints then count and compare sizes.

Check out this website for some of the Best Winter Books. Take a trip to the library and find these books to snuggle up and read on a cold winter day.

Play I spy… while outside for a walk or playing in the yard.

Looking for a family fun craft idea? Check out “Snowflake Art” for a great activity to share with your children.

Visit the library and look for these wonderful books to share with your children every time snow falls.

When driving to and from errands or sports, play “I Spy” with letters. “I spy the letter “S” on a “Stop Sign”.

Indoor Activities

Listening is more than just hearing. Play “Freeze Dance” with your toddler or preschooler. Sing or put on some quiet music and dance along. When the music stops, everyone freezes until it starts again. Another great listening game is “I hear with my little ear.” Collect some objects that make sounds (bell, rattle, comb, etc.). Make sure your child can’t see the object and say, “I hear with my little ear, something that goes ___.” See if our child can guess what made the sound.

Read a book together, but do it in a new way. Try letting your child “read” while you listen, or playing “I Spy” with the pictures in the book, or having a puppet read the book in a funny way. Try hiding things in the book ahead of time for your child to discover (pictures and puzzle pieces work well).

If stuck inside try this activity to get your whole family moving. Read about volcanoes as well as playing the game, and your kids will learn some new words while they have fun.

Animal Dance: With kids and adults in a circle, each person takes turns to move like an animal and say what they’re doing: “I hop like a bunny” or “I stomp like a dinosaur”. When all have had a turn start at the beginning but this time do the moves together and say what you’re doing.

Bowled Over: Make a bowling game with 10 plastic cups and a tennis ball. Set it up and roll the ball to knock down the cups. Count how many cups fall for each player, then how many fall for all players.

Where’s that Shape: Have a shapes scavenger hunt by taking turns to find shapes indoors and outdoors. Then try to make each shape with your body – the whole family can work together.

Home Restaurant: Spice up mealtime and have kids create a menu by drawing food items or using grocery store flyers – kids can take orders too.

Grocery Hunt: Write a grocery list with your child (use words and pictures) and let kids find all the items in the store or in the cupboards at home – a fun way to do the grocery shopping.

Bouncy rhymes help build vocabulary by using new words and sounds. Try rhymes at this website.

Sing the Five Little Ducks song. If you do not know the words, listen to it at this link. When singing with your child sing much more slowly than in the video.  Act out the actions and use your fingers to count.

Tape your child’s printed name to the fridge to allow your child to touch and learn the letters. Trace the letters with your fingers and talk about the names and sounds of each letter.

Create paper plate masks of your favourite animal. Have fun playing and making animal noises.

Make some music. Put beans in a container and shake, shake, shake! Try different objects and talk about the different sounds they make.

Let your child help with simple chores around the house. Do the laundry together. Sort by colours, who it belongs to, and types of clothing.

Story chain – Have one person start a story and everyone in the family adds a sentence to make a funny new story.

Imitate your infant’s babbling sounds and actions. This encourages conversation and learning language.

Rhyming is fun! Make up rhymes with actions! Enjoy this poem:
“Where did you get that little red nose? (touch nose)
Jack Frost kissed it, I suppose. 
He kissed it once, (kiss nose and hold up one finger)
He kissed it twice, (kiss nose and hold up two fingers)
And now your nose is as cold as ice! (shiver)”

Go on a colour hunt together. How many things can you find that are red/blue/green in 5 minutes?

Pick a book your child knows by heart. Let your child tell you the story.

Create an Alphabet book using pictures from magazines. Paste each item under the right letter.

Talk to your child every chance you get – when changing diaper, when bathing, when feeding.

Play “bear snacks.” Prepare a few little plates with bits of snacks on them (crackers, raisins, pieces of apple, etc.). Then tell your child to close her eyes while you hide them. Then she can pretend to be a bear sniffing around for food, and when she finds a snack plate she can gobble it up. You can give hints to help. If you have pets, you might want to hide something other than food!

Do a puzzle together. Take turns putting in the pieces. Talk to your child about how you know which piece to look for: straight edges, colours that match, etc. Have fun making your own puzzles by cutting up pictures from an old calendar, and then putting them back together.

Get active with your preschooler while you pretend to be animals! Add language to the activity by taking turns describing and guessing the animals: “This animal has a long neck and short horns and eats leaves” “A giraffe!” “Let’s stretch like giraffes!”

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