Save Time By Getting The Whole Family Involved
One of the most important contributors to progress in speech-language therapy is consistent practice at home. I often compare therapy to working-out at the gym: once a week is unlikely to make a big impact. In order to master new speech and language skills, children should practice several times during the week, which is no easy task for the average family that juggles sibling activities and busy schedules. Parents frequently share their challenge to find time for one-on-one practice with their child, especially with competing sibling demands. With a little creativity, however, this task is not impossible! Here are a few tips to practice your child’s speech and language goals while incorporating siblings.
Tips to encourage positive speech-language skills among siblings
- Create an atmosphere of support and encouragement among siblings. Talk to your kids about “kind” things to say to each other. Give them specific examples of phrases to encourage their sibling’s speech and language, such as “I like when you share your idea”, or “You’re really good at saying your S-sound!”. Praise your kids every time you hear encouraging words (e.g. “Wow, that was a kind thing to say. You’re a really good big brother.”)
- Minimize interrupting between siblings by encouraging “talking turns”. Competing for a turn to talk can exacerbate speech and language difficulties. Foster a safe environment to talk and share, by explaining “talking turns” to your kids (e.g. “It’s Ava’s talking turn right now. You’re talking turn is next!”). If needed, use a tangible object (e.g. a ball, a pretend microphone, a teddy bear) to pass back and forth during each talking turn.
- Encourage siblings to be “active listeners”. Explain what active listening is (e.g. “We listen with our ears, our eyes are looking at the person talking, our mouth is not talking, our body is still, our hands are quiet,” etc.) Praise active listening skills as you observe them (e.g. “Wow Alex! You are such a good listener! Your eyes are looking at Ava. I can tell you’re listening.”).
- Incorporate siblings into practice games and activities. Ask your child’s speech therapist for specific activities that are hand-tailored to your child’s therapy goals. As you play together, include siblings in practicing target speech sounds or language structures. Encourage your kids to give one another positive feedback (e.g. “That was a really good S-sound!” or “That was a really good try!”). Listening to each other while practicing will build greater awareness and self-monitoring skills.
Fun activities to get siblings involved in speech and language practice
- Practice following directions during “Simon Says”.
- Read books together and take turns answering questions, labeling objects or retelling the story in your own words (depending on each child’s level).
- Play turn-taking games while working on target speech sounds or language structures.
- Create a fun recipe or craft together, and practice target speech sounds between each step.
- Plan a scavenger hunt. Have siblings take turns giving each other clues where items are hidden.
- Sing songs together and use hand-motions or gestures while you sing.
- For more ideas to encourage speech and language skills, see a previous post “5 Fun & Easy Activities to Promote Speech & Language Skills During Summer”