Being in the great outdoors is one of the best language environments for young children! On this adventure, 5 nature elements; fire, water, earth, wind, and sky will be our guide. Let the elements inspire you to connect and make time for focused play with your child. The following blog will highlight ideas for families to use while camping or playing outside.
Fire – A fire is a complete sensory experience. Start by explaining a fire is hot. Set up the rules and safety precautions for a fire before the trip. Ask your therapist for a visual to support how to be safe around a fire. Think about the visual stimulation of a fire. Sit together and admire the colors and shape of the flame. Comment on the smell of your clothes after sitting next to the fire for 10 minutes. Do not forget to taste the food (ie hotdog, smore, potato, corn) cooked on a fire. If your child is a picky eater, have him/her touch the food in place of tasting it. Talk with your therapist about matching your child’s specific language level and to get ideas about challenging or decreasing your models.
Water – Go into the water with your child. As parents’ life is busy and when your child is busy playing it’s nice to have time for you, however, in this instance you need to dive in the deep end. Help your child experience the feeling of floating, play water games, and sing nursery rhymes. Another option that your child will love is a bin or bucket with water. Plan to get wet and have a towel ready. Gather light and heavy objects from nature. A couple ideas could be rocks, sticks, bugs, pinecones, berries, or grass. Comment on the items and follow your child’s level of play. If he/she is splashing with enjoyment, you do the same, maybe add an early developing sound combination like /ma/, /ba/, or /pa/ with the splashing. If your child is a verbal communicator have them label the item and add an action word. For example, you can model “rock splash” or “berry spin.” To expand farther, make the bucket of water into a potion. When your potion is complete, have your child tell you or another camper how it was made and pretend to serve it for dinner.
Earth – Get ready to get dirty! Find sand or dirt and burry body parts or your whole body. This can be a family project or just for the two of you. Comment about how the sand feels, talk about the change in temperature the farther you dig, and use action words like digging, pouring, or pushing. Some children will enjoy the sensory experience and others will share displeasure. Respect your child’s reaction. Move on to a different element if one is not working.
Wind – If the weather is agreeable and there is wind, go on a treasure hunt to find items that will fly in the wind. For example, find a feather, leaf, or flower petal. Have your child tell you his/her prediction about if the item will fly and why. If there is no wind, make your own. Fold paper or use a paper plate, then use the same objects you collected and blow them with your wind. Please expand or decrease the demand for your child’s level of communication.
Sky – Look up and admire the night sky. What do you see? Point out and talk about the constellations. Identify where the moon is. Plan to bring a book camping that has the moon in it. You could bring ‘Goodnight moon.’ This connection with the real moon and a book will enhance your child’s experience. A tip if your child doesn’t stay up late enough to see the night sky, is to purchase a night light with constellations and admire the sky before bedtime in the tent or his/her bedroom.
In summary, many families are camping or staying close to home this summer, plan in time to support your child’s language development in the great outdoors! Dedicate 10-15 minutes of focused play each day over the weekend. Routine and planning will make the language interactions fun and meaningful!
Natalie Wark, M.A.CCC/SLP