Poolside Speech Therapy
Much like parenting, speech therapy efforts are continuous. Your child will best advance his skills when his day-to-day routines are full of activities and conversations intended to boost his speech and language. But sometimes we could all use a change of scenery. If your child is bored to tears with flashcards, take speech therapy outside. Summer activities readily lend themselves to speech therapy activities. Children love playing games in the pool instead of just swimming laps, for example. Turn poolside activities into a fun speech therapy session. Your child might resist working on his “s” sounds inside at his desk, but he might happily practice them outside while splashing in the pool.
Adapt this popular pool game to suit your child’s speech therapy needs. Rather than shouting “Marco” and “Polo,” you could have your child work on his prepositions, for example. Instruct your child to give directions instead of saying “Polo.” He could say “I am next to the ladder,” “I am beside the diving board,” or “I am right outside the shallow end.” Not only does this reinforce your child’s use of prepositions, it also gives him practice speaking in complete sentences.
Play water tag with your child. Each time he is tagged or each time he tags you, have him say one of his target words. If he has trouble remembering which words he is supposed to say, line up objects next to the pool to remind him, if possible. For example, if he is working on the “ch” sound you could point to the pool chair. If he is working on the “p” sound you could place a cup and a picnic basket next to the pool.
Use the same strategy for a game of I Spy. Point to objects around the pool and say, “I spy with my little eye a….” Scatter objects around the pool that will encourage him to work on specific sounds. For example, for the “n” and “o” sounds you could place a couple of pool noodles in the water and for the “k” and “d” sounds you could add a rubber ducky.
Pretend play is often an effective way of encouraging vocalization. Use pretend play in the pool by playing pirates with your child. Use pirate-related words to encourage articulation practice, like “Ahoy, matey!” “Prepare to be boarded,” “Walk the plank,” and “Arrrr!” Make up silly stories about the pirates with your child to encourage narration skills and sentence structure. If he has trouble getting started, give him a prompt. For example, say, “I’m Lily the Fearsome from the Caribbean and my ship is called the White Star. What is your ship called?”
Go word fishing with your child in the pool. Laminate a few flashcards with words that you would like your child to work on. Glue a magnet on the back of each card. Attach a string to a dowel with a magnet on the end of the string. Have your child fish for the flashcards. As he catches each flashcard, have him say the word. This game might only work well in shallow, plastic kiddie pools. Otherwise, you could place the flashcards in a basket and have your child fish for them by the side of the pool.
When your child needs a break from swimming, you could practice using Speech Buddies with him by the side of the pool. You could also ask him to describe the actions of other swimmers. For example, say “Wow, Connor, Sarah is really splashing and kicking that water.” Exaggerate your articulation and encourage him to practice articulating words like “splash” and “kick.”