Often it can seem like you need to buy particular toys or take a child off into a corner alone to work on their speech and language skills. Time is short for all of us and it can be really hard to find time to do a specific “speech session” with your child, especially if you have other children too. Luckily, it’s easy to work speech and language targets into things you are already doing. Just keep in mind the skill that you are working on and take opportunities that present themselves. We have written a couple of other posts in this series, talking about how to work on speech and language targets on a trip to the park and a trip to the beach. Today I am going to talk about a regular household routine – bath time.
Children are quite different in how they respond to bathtime. There are some children for whom it is a stressful experience as they are scared of water or hate having their hair washed or any number of other reasons. However, for some other children it can be a time when they are quite relaxed and content. If your child falls into the second group, this can be a great time to bring in some of their language targets without them having any idea that they are doing any “work”! Here are some ideas:-
- Joint attention. There are all sorts of fun games you can play in the bath that can get the attention of children who can sometimes be difficult to engage. Blowing bubbles, multi-sensory bath toys, splashing water at each other, shooting things down a slide into the bath water – the list of possibilities is endless! Take turns with your child, and wait for them to look or indicate that they want an activity to be repeated.
- First words. Add some simple words into the activities above. Keep repeating the same words as you do the activity – eg “more?” “again?” “ready steady go”, “bubble” etc. Keep pausing and looking at your child to see if they want to say something. If not, keep using the words so that they keep hearing them in a relaxed, fun context. One time they might surprise you!
- Body parts. The bath is a great place to teach body parts vocabulary. Name each bit as you wash it. See if your child can tell you which part to wash next. If they find this difficult, give them a choice eg “leg or arm?” You could point to the two parts too to begin with if they need it.
- Verbs. There are lots of things you can do in the bath. Splashing, pouring, blowing bubbles, floating, sinking. Talk about what you are doing as you do it to expand your child’s range of verbs. There are lots of songs you can sing in the bath as well, especially ones which focus on verbs. For example, “this is the way we wash our hands” (this goes to the tune of “Here we go round the Mulberry bush” and you can add in all sorts of other bathtime verbs too!)
- Floating and sinking. Try out different things and see if they float or sink. After a while, see if your child can guess what will happen – now they are predicting too! Describe the objects as you go too – what are they made of? What shape are they? Are they heavy or light? There’s a wealth of vocabulary in floating and sinking things!
- Sound awareness and letter recognition. We have a bath fishing game with foam letters that my daughter has always loved to play with. You can find a similar one here. Ask your child to fish a particular letter, or if you are practising speech sounds, put several in and see if they can say the one they fish out. If your child can’t recognise the written letters yet, that doesn’t matter. Just tell them which sound each one makes as they fish it and see if they can copy. You could also ask them to think of words that start with each sound if they are able to do that.
- On/under. Actually you can use a range of position words in the water, but “on” and “under” is a great place to start. Talk about things that you can put under the water. You could even put them under the bubbles where you can’t see them and then guess what they are.
- Sequencing. Talk about what you are going to do next. If you have a daily bedtime routine, see if your child can tell you all the steps that you will do in order. Bath time is also a great time for chatting about the day. See if your child can tell you what they did today. Talk about what you plan to do tomorrow as well.
- Adjectives. Anything which engages all the senses is great for adjectives. Talk about how things look, feel, smell etc. Are things slippery or smooth? Is the sponge soft? Squashy?
What other ideas do you have for building language skills at bathtime?
Do watch out for more posts in this series – is there anything in particular you’d like us to cover?