One of the most effective ways to build language is during routines, especially routines that occur every day. That’s why bath time is a great opportunity for you to connect with your child to build language. Bath time is a beloved activity for many children. It’s easy to incorporate Playing With Purpose and sneak in many language building interactions without your child ever realizing they are ever doing “work”.

As speech language pathologist part of my job is to play! Since play assessment is a routine part of speech language evaluations for preschool and early school-aged children, I often find myself on the carpet in my office racing cars, making sure that all the “Little People” get their turn on the toy Ferris Wheel, and “cooking” elaborate  meals in complete absence of electrical appliances.  In fact, I’ve heard the phrase “I want toy” so many times that I actually began to worry that I might accidentally use it in polite company myself.

I use games all the time during my individual speech therapy sessions. They are a fantastic tool for speech, language, and social skill development in young children. Candy Land is a particular favorite of mine. I don’t have a great memory, but I do remember the version of Candy Land we had at home when I was a kid. It looks a little different these days, but the lessons are still the same.

During the month of August, the blistering heat of summer is upon us in Austin, TX, leaving some of us stuck inside, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find some creative ways to have fun! Bubble blowing is a fun indoor or outdoor activity, and children of all ages love blowing bubbles. Bubbles are also an excellent tool to promote speech and language development.

I am going to make a bold statement. Play is ESSENTIAL to the growth and development of your child. From a young age, play is your child’s occupation. Play promotes creativity and problem-solving, develops resilience and grit, and builds social and cognitive skills including, speech and language development. When you engage in outdoor play with your kids, you foster growth, development, and exposure to a multitude of new experiences.

My inspiration for this week’s blog post came when I was shopping at Target and found great books in their Dollar Spot. They are adaptations of popular children’s stories. Each book comes with a variety of felt characters and items related to the story. The felt books are interactive and provide many opportunities for language stimulation. Looks how cute they are!

Mr. Potato Head is my all time favorite toy to use with preschoolers which is why I have chosen it for my first post in a series called Playing With Purpose (PWP). The PWP series will highlight a specific toy or activity you can use to build language skills during play. Each post will be filled with hands-on ideas, step-by-step directions, and concepts you can address during play time with your child.

There are a number of methods and techniques for working with toddlers who don’t yet communicate effectively with others.  When we think about these methods, we often group them into two larger categories: indirect and direct. Indirect, or input-based, methods rely on adults providing lots of rich language in a child’s environment; with these methods, however, we don’t require children to do anything in the moment. There is considerable evidence to support these input-based methods, especially for late-talkers and toddlers and preschoolers who struggle with the grammatical aspects of language. Despite the effectiveness of input-based methods in some situations, there are times when these indirect methods of language facilitation aren’t all that are needed.  In these cases, we might choose to use a more direct method of helping a child to communicate.  Direct methods involve expecting a child to do something – to use a gesture, or a word, for example – right in the moment when we are teaching them. This is where prelinguistic milieu teaching enters the picture.

Within the wide range of techniques we SLPs carry in our speech-language toolboxes, the use of recasts is one we pull out frequently.  In fact, it’s a tool that many SLPs, parents, and teachers often use intuitively and with ease when interacting with young children.  But how valuable, exactly, is the use of recasting? What research guides the use of this technique in practice? And when do we need to use something more than recasts to help language grow? Recent research provides some clues to help us to answer these questions.