As I mentioned, one of the best parts of speech therapy has been the ideas it has inspired regarding how to more effectively play with T1. Throwing a ball back and forth is fun, but I needed more than that throughout the day to keep my attention. Otherwise I got bored doing the same things over and over with no goal in mind. And that is what the speech therapist helped me realize, that I was missing an objective. Below are some of T1′s favorite activities at 18 months, and they are things I love to do with him as well because I clearly understand the part I am playing in our interaction (that of the teacher, which I very much enjoy).
I’m looking for a few things in a puzzle. The pegs help him develop his fine motor skills as he pinches the pieces to set them down, and I wanted it to have animals or another common object he could work on identifying. To start I set out the puzzle board but keep all the pieces off to the side, turned upside down so they are less distracting. I grab one, hold it near my mouth, and say both the name of the animal, and the sound it makes. “Sheep”, “Baaaaaaaahhh”. At some point he won’t get to have the piece until he makes one of those sounds, but for now he signs the word please to let me know he wants to put it in. He sometimes tries to put it in the right spot, and sometimes not. He’s learning and getting better with each try though! I only step in to help if I think he’s going to get too frustrated and throw a tantrum. Then he signs that he wants more, and I repeat the process with another puzzle piece.
This is something I found while browsing Pinterest. Buy some pip cleaners, take an oatmeal can, and cut holes in the top. Let your toddler stick the pipe cleaners in and help you open the lid to get them out. It teaches object permanence, and I say “in, in, in” each time he puts one inside as well to try to work on his language. When they are all inside I ask if if he wants to get them out.
If you’re worried about sharp edges, stick your fingers in all the holes to make sure they won’t hurt your toddler. That’s how I tested mine out and they are all fine (I know, they don’t look pretty).
Another activity that gives me a chance to emphasize the words in and out. Mini poms can be found at a craft store, take a plastic container, and cut holes in the top. T1 loves throwing the poms around almost as much as he loves poking them through the holes.
I picked up a little rabbit at a craft store, found an empty jar, filled it with quinoa, and stuck the rabbit inside. I’d like to get a little collection of animals and switch them out so he can discover new friends hiding inside. This is yet another chance to work on language, as I say “rabbit, rabbit” excitedly whenever we find the rabbit’s head. I also can work on things like ears and feet when those things are poking out.
This one doesn’t have many opportunities to teach language (other than the names of colors, which the speech therapist said is a bit too abstract for him now) but coloring on the windows together is really fun!
My favorite game, and his, is fishing. I gathered up a pencil, some twine, a magnet, felt, and paper clips. I cut two fish shapes out of each color of felt, laid them on top of each other, and glued a paper clip inside. The twine was tied around the pencil and a glued a magnet on the end. Voila! We could go fishing.
When we’re going fishing I say the words fish and fishing, the colors of the fish he is picking up, and make a fish face along with the sound “whawp whawp whahp” in the hope that he will imitate me in some way.
These are all things I keep in a special paper bag away from him, and whenever I bring the bag out he gets so excited! I really enjoy having our learning time each day, and I’m starting to see little bits of progress. The last time we played before we Chicago, he said “mmmmm” when I picked up the cow and “bahhh” when I picked up the sheep. Watching him learning, and helping him take part in that process, is one of my favorite parts of being a parent.
Next on my list of things to get him is this play food set. When the speech therapist comes over he will excitedly ask for the “pebpah” and the “abble”. His words make me so happy.
If you have more ideas for activities I can use to play with T1 that will also help him to develop his language, fine, and gross motor skills, please comment below!