This week I will be doing my first 5-day series where I post for 5 straight days on a specific topic. To kick it off, I will be sharing 5 days worth of tips and tricks that you can incorporate into your everyday routine to boost your toddler’s language skills!
Today I’d like to talk about running errands and outings.
Remember when you used to be able to run a quick errand on a whim and not have to think about anything but grabbing your keys and hopping in the car? Yeah, that doesn’t happen anymore when you have young kids.
Our days are so much busier and simple tasks now take a whole lot more time to complete.
However, taking your kids with you to the grocery store and spending a little more time there doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It doesn’t have to take away from all of the learning activities you’ve been wanting to do at home. In fact, practicing language skills in a natural environment within your real-life routines is great for them!
As I mentioned in day 2 of this series, the strategies and activities being discussed don’t involve colored paper, glitter, and glue. They can be applied anywhere and at the drop of a hat. Having these tools in your back pocket can make even the most mundane tasks fun and educational!
Here are some strategies and activities you can use during your everyday errands and outings:
Name That Fruit
Provide labels/names for items that you see, hold, or put in the cart. “This is a banana.” If your child gives a one-word answer or comment, expand on it. If he says “apple,” then follow up with “yes, this is a red apple!”
Tell Me More
Use adjectives to describe color, shape, texture, size, etc. You could say, “This banana is long and yellow.”
This or That
Whenever possible, give your child the opportunity to make a request. Stand in front of something he really likes and say, “What do you want?” If he responds, expand on it. If he just points or doesn’t respond at all, provide a model, “Cheerios, please!”
Talk through what other customers are doing. This is a great way to introduce/practice pronouns! Make statements such as “She is putting ice-cream into her cart” or “He is talking on his phone.”
Prepare for appointments ahead of time by discussing what is going to happen, what/who they will see, what your expectations of them are, and then walking them through/acting out the process step-by-step.
On the way to the appointment, verbally review everything you discussed and practiced at your “dress rehearsal.” Once you get there, point out the people, tools, and things that you talked about. Continue to encourage your child throughout the process, especially if they are a little nervous.
After the appointment is over (could be later that day or the next day), talk about what happened. Again, emphasize the vocabulary (tools and items you saw) as well as the sequence of events that took place. Take it a step further by having your child retell the experience to someone who wasn’t there.
Look over the menu together and discuss the different foods. Describe what they look like and their ingredients. You could even show him how the menu is categorized (i.e. Appetizers, Entrees, Burgers, Seafood, Dessert, Drinks, etc) and talk specifically about what those words/categories mean.
You may be used to ordering for your child, but try letting them do it! Practice saying a simple sentence like “I want a _______ please.” or even simpler, “_____ please.” It will depend on their current verbal skills. Then when the waiter comes over to take your order, help your toddler say the lines you practiced.
It will be helpful to frame it as something you can do together instead of putting him on the spot and saying “Okay tell the waiter what you want.” You know your child best. If you think he’ll get shy or resist, then try saying “Alright buddy let’s order your food together.” If he doesn’t want to, don’t force it, just provide a model as if he’s repeating it after you. So “I want a grilled cheese please!”
Bring back the old restaurant “games” from your childhood! Using this time together as a family to interact, have fun, and be creative will be much more beneficial than staring at a phone or iPad.
- Tower Build: Grab the sugar packets and creamer cups to build a tower! Target verbs such as build, stack, crash, fall.
- Where is the Penny: Place a penny (or any other small item) in various places on the table (i.e. on top of the ketchup, behind the mustard, under the menu, etc.) and target those prepositions.
- Tic Tac Toe: No explanation needed 🙂
- Sort it Out: Get more use out of those sugar packets by having your toddler sort them by color.
Describe Your Plate
When you get your food, describe what the food looks and tastes like. Instead of just saying “it tastes good,” try using more specific descriptive words such as creamy, tart, spicy, salty, sweet, sour, savory etc.
What Are You Doing?
Narrate (parallel talk) what your child is doing. If he is walking across the bridge say, “You are walking across the bridge!” Make sure to use the word “you” instead of his name (i.e. James is walking across the bridge).
Talk about what other people in the park are doing. This is a great way to continue working on pronouns. If you see a little girl swinging on the swings say, “She is swinging on the swings!” You can describe what people are wearing, how you think they’re feeling, or any other personal characteristics.
See and Say
Tell your toddler what you see as you’re driving. “I see a green tree!” or “I see a big red truck!”. Open it up for your toddler to play too, “What do you see?”.
Jingles + Slogans
This is a fun one that my parents and I used to do in the car a lot! Anytime you see a place with a jingle or slogan that you know, sing it/should it! Here are some common ones:
- McDonald’s – I’m Lovin’ It
- Menards – Save Big Money at Menards
- Subway – Eat Fresh
- KFC – Finger Lickin’ Good
- Taco Bell – Think Outside the Bun
Who doesn’t love belting out songs in the car?! When choosing songs for the car, try to pick ones with a lot of repetition such as “Wheels on the Bus.” You can sing it together or you can start singing a line and pause for him to fill in the blank.
Rules of the Road
Discuss driving rules such as what you do at a green light, red light, or yellow light. Talk about what different road signs mean (i.e. stop, yield, icy road, do not enter, under construction, etc).
There Ya Go!
You can maximize learning during your outings and errands with just a few simple tricks up your sleeve! Those not-so-fun tasks may become a lot more fun for your toddler, which means they may actually look forward to them!
This is day 3 of the 5 Days of Speech and Language Tips series.
Tell me in the comments if you incorporated any of the strategies into your latest errands or outings!