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Classrooms across the region are operating remotely, as schools have closed for the academic year. For some families, this change extends beyond the classroom and impacts how their children receive support services, such as speech therapy, through their schools. With May being Better Hearing and Speech Month, Tana Maggart, speech therapist at Quincy Medical Group (QMG), offers some tips for parents and caregivers to support their young children.

Throughout the day, Maggart says simply talking to your children is extremely valuable when it comes to their speech and language development. “Tell your child everything you are doing and why you are doing it,” she explained. The more you talk to your child the better.”

Maggart also suggests the following activities:

Use interactive/basic toys (not electronic) 

Simple toys without an electronic component are best when it comes to your child’s development, Maggart said.

“Limit the number of battery-operated toys. The more the toy does, the less the child does,” she explained. “Choose toys that encourage active play, such as balls, toy cars, toy trains, blocks, and toy animals. Show the child how to use the toys or how to play with the toys and then play with your child using the toys.”

Read books

Reading to your child every day has so many benefits, Maggart explained. To start, choose developmentally appropriate books. These include cloth or vinyl books for babies or kids who put everything in their mouths, board books for toddlers, and storybooks with paper pages for preschoolers.

To enhance the reading experience and increase the benefits for your child, Maggart suggests the following:

  • Not only read the words on the page, but also talk about what is happening in the pictures, point out interesting details, and ask your child what they see in the pictures. You can play “I spy,” etc.
  • Get on your child’s level if they do not wish to sit on your lap.
  • Use animated voices and make a variety of interesting sound effects (your goal is to become the most interesting thing in the room).
  • Reduce distractions in the room by turning off the TV and placing other electronic devices (iPad, smartphone) out of sight.

Play with objects around the house 

Everyday objects found around the house can serve as great learning tools.

“Use cups as a microphone,” Maggart suggests. “Animal or transportation sounds are fun to make, and practice saying ‘my turn’ and ‘your turn’ when playing. Try different cups to see if they sound different.”

Other suggestions include using pots and pans with wooden spoons as musical instruments and sing popular kids songs, such as “The Wheels on the Bus” or the “Alphabet Song.” She also recommends grabbing a laundry basket and asking your child to follow directions to put in or take out items or using the laundry basket as a boat and sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”.

Use dressing time and mealtime as learning opportunities

Routine times and activities are valuable times to interact and teach your child, Maggart said.

“When getting dressed for the day, offer choices on what to wear. For example, you could ask, ‘Do you want to wear the green shirt or the blue shirt?,’” Maggart explained. “You can also name each clothing item, which will help build vocabulary, give simple directions such as ‘get your shirt’ or ‘find your socks,’ and sing while you get dressed. ‘The Hokey Pokey’ song is a good one, so you can call out right arm, left arm, head, etc.”

During mealtime, Maggart encourages you to involve your kids as much as possible, no matter how messy it might be. “Explain each food item and talk through with your child what you are doing with each item. Also, ask your child to describe how food looks, smells, and tastes.”

In addition, Maggart points to several online resources to help with ideas and support at home.

She recommends Speechandlanguagekids.com, Speechbuddy.com, Allyallneed.com, and Kidslearnlanguage.blogspot.com

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s speech development, Maggart suggests talking to your pediatrician or calling the Pediatric Therapy department at Quincy Medical Group at 217-222-6550, ext. 3418.  To learn more about our pediatric therapy services, visit https://quincymedgroup.com/medical-services/therapy-services/.