Thursday, June 24, 2010

Week 23 Using "Art" Things to Increase Communication

How many of you loved "art" when you were in school??? I am always shocked by how many people disliked art and will say, "I can't draw" or "I am not good at art". This saddens me because everyone can be "good" at art because art is really just exploring different media's and seeing what you produce and what you like. OK, I will now get off my soapbox :)

Think about all the commercial products out there for "art". WOW, you can get just about everything to create something. So, let's think about ways to use creative supplies to increase your child's communication skills.

I think that one reason parents are hesitant to do art activities at home is because of the mess. So here are some suggestions to decrease the mess factor. First I would encourage you to buy a cheap plastic tablecloth...the biggest you can find and then place that under the table you are going to be at, or just put it on the floor and sit on it. This will help control the mess.

Another suggestions is to have your child either in just a diaper or an outfit that you don't mind if it gets yucky. Maybe buy a cheap top and bottom and designate it as your art clothes :) You can also use bibs or smocks to keep the mess off your child.

Being a person that embraces the sensory input of all activities my suggestion to have them in a diaper or old swimming suit is attractive because then they will experience the art activity with their whole bodies which is good for their communication, central nervous system and less clothes to worry about :)

Let's think about different art media.......

1. Paint! As I mentioned last time, the cleanest painting activity is with water. But they also have those sets where the paint only goes on the paper. There are also paint with water books. But I'm going to nudge you into finger painting, a wonderful activity to spark language. Use your hands, use your feet, paint their bodies, let them paint their bodies (perhaps outside and then hose them down or have sprinkler/pool play.) It can be hard to manipulate a paint brush but moving hands or feet in paint is easy, feels good or icky, and pops lots of language. Get a long piece of newsprint (sometimes newspapers give end rolls for free) and use that to paint on. Put it on the floor or tape it to a wall (maybe in the shower area?). Once again you can talk about body parts, you can talk about colors (no quizzing please), and you can use all those functional words/signs like "more, oh no, yuck, stop, all done", etc. You can give choices, "do you want blue or red?" and that's a great way to introduce colors. "Do you want the big brush or the little brush?" a great way to introduce size concepts. You can drive cars through the paint and see how the tracks that the wheels look like. You can use pudding, yogurt or applesauce to paint with or shaving cream or whipped cream. All of these will give you child a new texture to feel and the food items takes away the concern of having your child put their fingers in their mouths while finger painting.

It doesn't matter what the end result looks like, the experience is what is important. But as parents I know you like to have some results to display in your house or give to grandparents and other family members. So, after the paint has dried, you can cut out shapes, pictures for you and the family. For example, in the summer, cut out colorful fish shapes out of the painted paper and frame or hang on the fridge. If it's Christmas time, use green paint and you can cut out a wreath shape or a tree shape. If it's Valentines time, use red paint and cut out hearts. The artwork will be beautiful but more importantly your child will have had a fantastic experience that will spark language.

2. Playdough! There are tons of recipes out there for playdough or you can just buy the playdough in the store. One of my favorite activities with this is to hand the child the container but don't open it up. Just wait, smile and look like you are listening to them. They will do something to indicate that they want that container open. They might hand it to you, they might struggle with it first, they might try using their teeth, but they will show or let you know that they need help. So, then you get to take your turn, "help?", "open?", "stuck?", or whatever works for you. Remember that we are not looking for things that really look like anything, we are just experiencing the playdough. So we will be pounding on it "boom boom"; we might squeeze it through our fingers and say "ewwww", or "wow", or "go go". We might like to pretend and get out a roller and cutters and "make" cookies and find words like "cookie", "yummy", and give choices about colors or how many cookies we want to make. Children like to make snakes by rolling the playdough. They like to make balls by rolling the playdough in their palms (and then will probably throw it :) You can "push" your fingers in the playdough.

3. Glue! Squeezing a glue bottle is great way to keep your busy child interested longer. Let them just squeeze, even if its the whole bottle! The process of squeezing is great for their body. Now what to do with that lake of glue?? You can touch it, squish it and then you can experience that glue on your hands.

Even if your child just squirts glue on a paper, what to do next? You can use anything to stick in that glue, feathers, sequins, colored sand to shake on the glue, pieces of paper that the child rips, tissue paper, shells, sticks, stones. Can you see where I'm going? You can put anything you want into that glue...look around your house and yard and you will find tons of things to use.

Then find a nice spot to let that glue dry. If you have the lake of glue it might take several days, but that's OK. There is also colored glue, sparkle glue, glue pens, etc. etc.

4. Sidewalk chalk, crayons, markers, pens, pencils! I know, these are pretty self explanatory so I will focus more on how to use them to pop communication. When your child is drawing you can talk about how they are drawing like "up, up, up; down; fast; slow; round and round; go go go; stop". If your child likes trains or trucks you can draw a track or a road and then use the crayon and as your are drawing you follow the track and say "choo choo". You can draw with them and draw a star and sing "twinkle twinkle".

With these kind of experiences really let your imagination go. There is no right or wrong when it comes to exploring art activities. If you are having fun, your child will have fun and experience new things, be exposed to new vocabulary and have new opportunities to use communication.

Have fun this week!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Week 22 Water Play

With the hot weather upon us, water seems to be another fun way to "pop" some language. Even if you live miles from a beach or lake, there is always water in your home. So, let's think about some fun ways to use water to stimulate some communication.

1. Take a bucket of water outside and have a paintbrush, a big one that you might use to paint your walls. Let your child "paint" the outside walls of your home; or "paint" the car, or a fence or the garage or their bikes, or the slide outside, or their brother or sister :) Yes, painting with water is fun, clean and there is no mess. What words might you hear "wawa (water); "paint" or any word approximation of the word; "up", "down", "all gone"; "where go" when the water evaporates; and then any of the words that label what you are painting.

2. Using a kiddie pool, or any container that holds water enough that the child can get in and out. You can put in cups and toys and then just explore with water. You can sit on the toys to hide them "where go?". You can put water on different body parts and talk about them. There is research that pouring water from cup to cup helps a child learn about math in the future!!!! Plus think about how fun this activity is, plus the child is active "in" and "out" of the pool; and this always helps communication grow.

3. Now if you live with a full size pool you have more noodle; blow (when you blow up the float); swimmies; jump; more; go; swim; etc. etc.

4. And if you live near a lake or ocean you have different vocabulary like: fish; waves; boat; shell; stone; throw; sand; dolphin; manatee; bird; seagull; etc. etc.

5. And lets not forget the sprinklers, slip and slides, squirt guns, water balloons, and more.

6. And since the topic is water, let's think about bath time and shower time. You can wash different body parts and talk about them; words like tub; bubble; soap; washcloth; boat; duck; hot; cold; towel, etc.

When you are out enjoying water this summer, think about all the words that your child will be exposed to. And always try to tie communication to having fun.

Have a great week!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Week 21 Bubbles....pop...pop...pop

Summer is upon us and from what I have been hearing on the weather, it has been hot pretty much all over the nation. So, let's think of things that we can do during the summer, outside, that might be wonderful for helping communication to development and expand.

There is no speech therapist out there that doesn't love bubbles. Bubbles work on oral motor development, "bubble" and "pop" are easy words to say. Blowing bubbles are a perfect activity for turn taking. Popping bubbles with a pointed finger helps with pointing in books. BUBBLES ARE FUN!!!!!

So, first let's think about oral motor and bubbles. Many children that have trouble with communication tend to have low muscle tone in their mouths. Blowing is hard, puckering is hard, sucking from a straw can be hard. But, the more your child works those muscles and gets them to working the best they can, the clearer their sounds will be and the easier it will be for your child to eat more variety. Who knew?????

Here are a couple tricks to help your child learn to blow a bubble through a bubble wand.

1. You blow a bubble and catch it on the wand, then encourage your child to blow the bubble off the wand. (If that is still too hard, position yourself beside your child so that you can help blow the bubble off the wand). Even if your child is not puckering they may be able to blow out enough air to get that bubble off by themselves. You want your child to be successful so that they want to keep doing the bubble blowing.

2. Another trick is to gently pinch in their cheeks with your hand which makes their lips/mouth form a pucker...then encourage them to blow, either into the bubble wand or just blowing the bubble you caught that is on top of the wand.

Now let's think of the language part of this activity.

1. As I said, the word "bubble (bubba)" is easy to produce. So is the work "pop". You now have a great activity to expand vocabulary and that vocabulary is easy to say, yipee!!

2. You can also add the word/sign for "more" and then you are looking at focusing on 2 word phrases, "more bubble". More language expansion examples could be "oh no, bubble pop", "where bubble go?", "bye bubble", "bubble pop", "pop, pop, pop".

3. You can even work on understanding more language. You can focus on body parts and talk about "I am going to put the bubble on your foot" at the foot....pop the bubble on the foot... and you have just expanded their understanding of body parts. Now, don't get into quizzing them but just lots of modelling. Of course you can also stick in a choice like "do you want the bubble on your tummy or your foot?" and see how they respond. Do they point?, do they smile?, do they look at the body part?, do they pull up their shirt? Now they are demonstrating their understanding of language without it being a test :)

4. Involving movement makes this even more fun and also will get more turns out of your sensory kiddo. So, when you blow the bubbles for your child, have them "stomp" on those bubbles while saying "pop" for every bubble popped. You can jump with both feet to pop those bubbles. If you are outside they can run to catch those bubbles flying around.

5. More bubble ideas.
  • Using a mixture of dawn detergent and water (check online for the recipe) makes big, strong bubbles. Yes, they will sting eyes and taste icky :) But with this mixture you can dip a circle of string into it and swing it around and make BIG bubbles that don't pop easily. You can use those big bubble wands (I mean the really big ones) to produce those big bubbles.
  • Buy one of those "bubble guns" that shoot out tons of bubbles. Just the amount is amazing to the kids.
  • Put a bubble wand in front of a standing fan and watch the hundred of bubbles come out.
  • Put soapy water in a dishpan or bowl and take straws or tubing and blow air into the mixtures and watch it grow with bubbles. This is also a good activity to do with a glass of milk.
  • If you live where it freezes, blow bubbles outside and watch them break as they's amazing.

6. Here is the most extreme suggestion (and so much fun!!). I worked with a group of amazing women that created many "over the top", sensory, fun activities for children and this is one of my favorites. Thanks Terri for your imagination and creativity :)

Have children in swimsuits, diapers or clothes that you don't mind getting wet and this outside. We started with a water table. Inside we placed a bubble mat that you would put on the bottom of your bathtub to create a spa experience. OK, now you would place a bunch of shampoo or bubble bath (look for ones that won't irritate eyes)....I know you can see where this is going :).....add some water, plug in the bubble mat and watch what happens!!!! A wall of bubbles will grow from the table that eventually will fold over onto the ground from gravity. The kids we did this with (my son included) actually sat inside the folded over area, like a fort and then, of course had fun "being one" with the bubble wall. Suggest this to the preschool/daycare teachers out there. If they look at you like you're nuts, refer them to me :)

Now, imagine how this experience would be for your child. EXTREME BUBBLES!!! Language will pop, I guarantee that, fun will be had and memories will be made.

I bet you will never look at bubbles in the same way :) Have a great week!!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Week 20 Yes You Can Use the TV to Build Communication :)

Today I am going to touch on a subject that has some "energy", both positive and negative around it. It is about actually using the TV as a way to build communication with your child.

TV and children is a topic that many people have opinions on. There are the families that have the TV on all day and that's fine with them and then there are the families that don't have a television in the house. There are studies out there that talk about the damage that TV can have on young children. And I read those studies and have friends that don't have televisions in their homes and I am totally respectful of that. I am a person that believes that pretty much anything in life is OK in moderation and the reality is that most homes have televisions in them. And alot of the time they are on. So, as a speech and language pathologist I think it is important to share some tips that can actually let you use the TV to pop more language in your child.

Now, I am not an advocate for plopping your child down in front of the TV for hours at a time. It is important for your child's development to have actual people interaction on and off, all day long to grow and learn. But for short periods of time, the TV can be OK.

The most important thing to me is that you are sitting with your child and interacting with the TV and your child. How would this look (did she really say, interact with the TV ?)!!! When I use the TV as a language tool I would join the child during their favorite program, let's say Mickey Mouse Playhouse. As the show is going on, I would be commenting about what is happening..."hi Mickey" when Mickey first shows up and I would wave at the same time. "Oh no, Donald down!" would be something I would model if Donald fell down and I would probably cover my mouth in horror (dramatic effect). I would most certainly sing along with the songs they have "hot dog, hot dog, hot diggity dog" and do some dancing. Now think about what your child is seeing and doing compared to just sitting on the couch and passively watching. You are doing all the suggestions (labelling, commenting, using animation, etc) to make this activity fun and interactive. And so many of the children's programs are very repetitive, so they hear the same songs and phrases over and over, like "oh man" from Dora. Since they hear these phrases and songs over and over, they are more apt to be able to imitate them.

Now I would take this one step further and maybe later in the day use the actual Mickey Mouse and Donald figurines that you probably have in the house and role play some of the show that you saw earlier. You could have Mickey dance and then sing the hot dog song, slowly and with breaks and see if your child joins in. You could set up the situation that Donald falls down and say "oh no" or "you OK Donald?" which can be followed up with giving Donald a kiss which is doing some oral motor stimulation. You can give your child the choice (do you want to have Mickey or Donald?). Then of course this can overlap with books, pictures, singing, etc.

Let's think about sports shows. Many families enjoy watching a team or teams together and it becomes a family celebration. You will be surprised to find that doing the touchdown arms up motion or saying an approximation of "touchdown" can come pretty quickly when the whole family is involved...there is lots of modelling going on and the whole family is having fun. Other words during sports shows that children pick up quickly are "go, oh no, etc." Also watch out for the swearing that might pop out during a game because it's amazing to me how quickly and appropriately your nonverbal child will pick up those words first!! But think about it, the model is usually pretty animated, loud, a short model and pretty attractive to small ears :)

The wonderful thing about TV programs and DVDs or videos (yes I am old :) is that they can expose your child to places and people and experiences that they do not see on a daily basis. This is a way to expand your child's understanding of the world, increase their vocabulary, and meet new people or find new places that give them pleasure. Most of us watch TV for enjoyment so using it to pop some communication just makes sense.

The power of learning those simple tricks that I shared at the beginning of this blog is that you can use them in all different activities that you are doing throughout your day. It makes learning how to communicate so less stressful because it's not an additional thing that you are adding on to your day, it's looking at what you are already doing and enriching the interactions. I know that it feels awkward and weird at first, but the more you try, the more "normal" it will feel to you and you will find it effortless after time.

Have a wonderful week.