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  • Meredith Lamb M.S., CCC-SLP

Implementing Speech and Language Strategies Outside

It’s summertime which means sunny weather and lots of opportunities for play and adventures outside! Being outside provides a fun, multi-sensory environment where children can learn and grow, and there are many ways to support your child’s language skills while still engaging in your summer activities.  

1. Use Descriptive Language

When you're outside, you can describe what you see, feel, taste, or hear. For example, “Look at the tall, green trees”, “The waves are making a big crash!”, or “The water feels cold!”. It can also be helpful to describe the locations of things, such as, “The sunscreen is inside my bag”, “The ball is under the slide”, or “The chalk is next to the bubbles”. This helps expand your child’s vocabulary, comprehend verbal directions with varying concepts, and teaches them how to use descriptive language.

2. Labeling and Naming

Outside is full of new and interesting objects, so you can take time to name things as you encounter them. A few examples, “That’s a butterfly,” “A pinecone!,” “That’s a kite!” or “I see the slide!”. Repetition is also important for language development, so using these names often can help your child with learning and using this new vocabulary. And remember to minimize questions as your child is still learning language because this reduces communicative pressure and your child might not know how to respond to your questions yet! 

3. Include Pausing

Another way to encourage your child to communicate is by implementing pausing. This provides your child an opportunity to fill in a brief moment of silence with a gesture, sign, sound, or word. Examples of this include, “ready, set…run!”, “1, 2, 3…push!”, or “1, 2, 3, slide!”. You can embed pausing in all kinds of activities that happen outside, including play with bubbles, water play, play on swings, “catch” etc. 

4. Incorporate Movement

If your child seeks a lot of movement, you can pair physical activities with language activities. For example, “Let’s hop like a frog,”, “Let’s stomp in the grass!”, or “We can crawl like a crab”. It can also be helpful to model and/or join in on the actions they are already doing, such as “swing”, “slide”, “jump”, or “spin”.

5. Follow Your Child’s Lead

Observe what is interesting to your child and build language experiences around their interests. If your child is fascinated by a particular flower or insect, focus your language modeling on that. If your child loves movement, you can play a game of “tag” or narrate if they’re running fast, swinging high, sliding down, etc. This builds connection with your child and makes learning more engaging and relevant to them.

By integrating these strategies, you can turn outdoor play into rich language-learning experiences this summer!  

-Meredith Lamb M.S., CCC-SLP



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