Swings: A typical scene at the park involves parents standing behind the swings, giving their little ones a push as needed. Try mixing it up by standing in front of the swing. This allows to you make eye contact with your child, establishing joint attention and increasing communicative intent. You can practice a "routine" by holding your child by the ankles, counting down from ten and yelling "blast off!" as you let go. You can also grab your child's feet to stop them and have them practice requesting "more." When standing in front of your child, you can watch his/her face light up as they swing! For extra smiles, you can tell them you're going to tickle them, and practice labeling body parts while you're at it ("I'm going to tickle your knee! Now I'm going to tickle your left knee!" Watch out, I'm going to tickle your shoulder!")
Slides: Slides have become quite fancy compared to when I was a kid! There are slides with tunnels, twisty slides, bumpy and smooth slides, and the list goes on! Talk about the differences in the slides at your playground, such as "this one is tall, but this one is shorter" or "this one is straight but this one is twisty." As you climb up the play structure to reach the slide, talk about climbing up to the top, then point out how you are sliding to the bottom. Have your child predict if they will go down the slide fast or slow. Go down the slide with your child, forming a "choo-choo train" and talk about who will get to the bottom first and who will get there last. Carry a ball up with you and let your child roll it down the slide. If your park has side-by-side slides, have a race and see who gets to the bottom first!
Merry-Go-Round: Kids love to spin on the merry-go-round! Count with your child how many "handles" are on the merry-go-round as they walk around it or climb on it. Have your child tell you when to go fast and when to go slow. After giving them a ride, hop on yourself and let them push you! Now it's your turn to ask for them to go fast or slow, stop or start, etc., allowing you to model appropriate verbal requests. Talk about how the merry-go-round spins around and around, how it makes you feel dizzy, etc.
Sandbox/Dirt: Oh the sandbox! It is easy to cringe at the thought of all the sand that is going to come home with your child, but if you consider all the language-based activities it provides, it is worth it! You can practice digging, filling buckets, and emptying them out. Talk about how the bucket is "full" or "empty" and "half-full." Talk about digging a deep hole or a shallow hole. Take turns using the shovel and bucket, and model appropriate requests and turn-taking for your child. Draw shapes in the sand using your finger or a stick and help your child name them. Draw a picture of both yourself and your child and talk about how you are the same and different "e.g. "we both have hair, but mine is long and yours is short." Poke holes in the sand and count them, draw letters and name them, talk about the sounds the letters make, and practice writing your child's name in the sand. If there is no sandbox at the park, you can do these activities in the dirt or bark too!
Interact with Other Children: The park provides the valuable opportunity for your child to interact with new kids. This is a great time to practice social skills, such as introducing themselves, saying their name, asking the other kids what their names are, turn-taking, waiting in line, and saying "hello" and "good-bye."
All around the Park: Playing in the park allows for great practice in following directions, as well as spatial concept comprehension. Pick a home base and give your child one, two, or three-step directions based on their ability. Tell them to hop to the water fountain like a bunny, run to the trees and stand between them, walk to the tunnel and crawl through it like a turtle, etc. Tell them to stand under the slide, sit next to the picnic table, then stand behind the swing. There are endless options and great practice following concrete directions and listening skills
Collect "Art Materials": The fun at the park is wrapping up, but now you need something for your child to do when you get home. Collect some art-materials for your child at the park! Find a rock or two that your child likes and let them paint it at home. They will have so much fun and take so much pride in their rock, and it will make a great little decoration for your garden too! Collect some dandelions, other wildflowers (or weeds) and let them glue them to paper or arrange them in a vase for the dinner table. Collect a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors of leaves, cut a "wreath" out of a paper plate, and let your child glue the leaves on, making a great decoration to hang on the wall or in a window. Not only will they have fun and take pride in their art, but it gives them something to show the rest of the family and gives them an opportunity to retell their experiences at the park, which is great practice for narrative skills.
If you would like to learn more about the SUSAN L. COHN & ASSOCIATES TEAM, you can click here.
SUSAN L. COHN & ASSOCIATES
710 NW Juniper Street Suite 108
Issaquah WA 98027
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