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Outdoor activities to develop speech and language skills

With the weather changing for the better, and the school year nearing an end, now is the ideal time to get kids outdoors more often. It’s always a good idea to get kids to spend more time outside, but for kids undergoing Speech & Language Therapy, it can be particularly beneficial. There are lots of different animals, sights, and sounds in nature, making it the perfect way to get your kids excited about learning new words and verbalising their experiences. To help make this more effective, we have put together a list of some of the best outdoor activities to help develop speech and language skills.

Nature Walk

You don’t have to go too far in Ireland before you hit some sort of interesting natural area, such as a beach, forest, river, mountain, and so on. All of these options offer a plethora of different words for you to use with your child, and there will be lots of different things for them to get excited about. One way to engage them is to have them point out what they see and name it, which can work very well with animals. This is not only a great way to get them talking, but also to expand their vocabulary. They may say that they see a bird, and you can tell them it’s a robin, for example. You can also ask them to describe where something is, such as by saying “On top of the tallest tree”, or “Behind the mossy rocks”. Another option is to follow a sound, and try to guess what it is along the way e.g. a river, a waterfall.

Tip the Can

Tip the can is an option best used when there are multiple children in an enclosed area, such as your garden, that won’t allow them to wander too far. This allows you to engage multiple children, but without having to worry about them. If you aren’t familiar with the game, tip the can is like hide & seek, but rather than simply finding the other players, the seeker must “tip the can” (any object, like a tree or chair) and describe who they see and what they are doing. This is a very effective way to incorporate lots of different verbs and objects, as they are required to say things like “I see John ducking behind the car”, “I see Emily crawling behind the wall”, and “I see Conor climbing up the tree”. The game ends when either the seeker has caught everyone, or a hider manages to make their way to the can unnoticed.

Simon Says

Simon Says is a game that can be played with anywhere from one child, to everyone from school. This game is most effective at teaching children various kinds of verbs, like jump, hop, touch, clap, etc. There will always be an instructional verb in the command, but it can also be used to teach kids nouns & prepositions, by saying things like “Simon says run around the tree” or “Jump over the hose”. Most kids will also want to take turns playing Simon, which gets them excited about forming their own commands.

Obstacle Course

By getting a few random objects, such as boxes, chairs, or tents, out of the house and into the garden, you can make up all sorts of different obstacle courses. Once again, this incorporates a mix of a lot of different nouns, prepositions, and verbs, and allows children to take turns both carrying out the actions and giving the instructions.

Scavenger Hunt

A scavenger hunt is another game that can be done with any number of children, and can have various levels of difficulty. You can use almost any object for a scavenger hunt, and you can give the clues in lots of different ways. For example, you could give clues that describe where to find the object relative to the environment e.g. “The first object is under a small bush beside a big rock”. You can also give more difficult clues, like  a description of the object, or a riddle.

These are just a few examples of outdoor activities that can help develop your child’s Speech and Language Skills. Most of them you may recall from your own childhood, although maybe not as a learning exercise. This illustrates how it is possible to make education a fun, casual experience, and to get the child engaged and excited. In this blog, we have tried to explain why these games can be effective, and how different options may help children with different needs. You may find it useful therefore to think back on the games you used to play, and how they could be used to address the specific issues your child is having.