Lockdown – promoting language using daily routines

By Donna Heather

What a crazy couple of weeks it has been. As we all try and get our heads around this new reality of self-isolation and lock down, lots of parents have talked to me about speech and language therapy and what they should be doing. Some parents are keen to have online therapy sessions, others are looking for less intense strategies to keep them going. Some are feeling overwhelmed with day-to-day life – juggling work and childcare and home schooling – and feel guilty that they’re not doing more. All of them want the best for their kids. So what is best? How do we give our children what they need while also taking care of ourselves?

Luckily, when it comes to language and learning, there are lots of ways to give our children what they need, both in terms of connection and learning. And luckily for us, it doesn’t require a huge amount of planning or preparation on our part. We can provide amazing opportunities for language and learning as part of our everyday routine.

What I love most about communication is that it is everywhere. Everything we do is an opportunity to build our child’s understanding of the world, as well as boosting our child’s language and learning.

When thinking about building language in daily routines, there are two communication strategies that I like to focus on:

  1. Giving choices. This is an important step for children in learning about the power of communication – where they can use their communication skills to have control over their environment. 
  1. Commenting – thinking about all the different types of language that you can model. Everyone thinks about nouns (object labels, colours, numbers), but there are so many more. Think about verbs (action words), adjectives (describing words), prepositions (position words) and social language. These are all just as important as the nouns. 

If we think about daily routines around the house, we think about jobs that need to get done and things we need to do – we don’t necessarily think of these things as opportunities for play and language. But they are!  Here are some lovely ways to build play and language into our everyday routines: 

Breakfast Time: There are many things that are difficult about our current lockdown situation, but on the positive side, we have a bit more time in the morning. No more commute! Get the kids involved in getting things ready for breakfast. Setting the table is a great opportunity for 1:1 correspondence and counting – count out how many people there are. How many bowls do we need? How many spoons?   

Giving choices at mealtimes is an awesome way to encourage communication. Do you want porridge or toast? Honey or peanut butter?

Your child doesn’t even have to be talking yet. They will communicate using gestures (reaching) or physically (looking) or through their body language (smiling or frowning).

Interpret their choice and give them the language model (you want porridge!).

Talk to your child about what you’re doing. This is a great opportunity for developing verbs and adjectives – these are our action and describing words and they are so important for language and communication. Think of all the things you could talk about doing at breakfast – pouring, shaking, spreading, cutting. You can talk about what you’re having for breakfast, what it tastes like (sweet or savoury), what it sounds like (crunchy or quiet) and what it feels like (soft, hard, rough, sticky). Wash the dishes together and talk about what you’re doing – you can talk about clean and dirty, wet and dry…all important language concepts. Yes, it will be messy (even more fantastic verbs and adjectives!), and probably take much longer than it would if you did it yourself, but it’s an excellent opportunity for building language as part of your daily routine.

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