Summer. This season typically evokes strong feelings on both ends of the spectrum. For some, it's a relaxing break from the stress of the school year and all its routines. For others, it's a stressful season because routines are a little less strict and things can start to feel chaotic very quickly especially for those who thrive on routine and structure. As therapists and educators, one thing that we know about summer is that the phrase "use it or lose it" never rings truer than in this season. So how do we find the balance of continuing to reinforce skills while still managing to enjoy the fun that summer should bring? It all goes back to those routines inside your home. Here are some ways to utilize those daily routines and make the most of them.
Weaving important speech and language skills into each day doesn't have to be hard and it certainly doesn't have to take any extra time! Every normal activity you do during the day can become a RICH language experience with just a few minor adjustments.
1. Taking a drive to the lake, the pool, the park, or even just to grandma's house? As you are driving, discuss all the things you will see, hear, and do when you arrive at your destination. This not only prepares your child for what's to come but it also exposes them to rich language and vocabulary.
2. Once at your destination, collect rocks, shells, flowers, etc. of different sizes and colors. Talk about them, put them in categories, and give clues to help your child figure out which one you want.
3. Incorporate practice into your daily routines at home (bath time, meal/snack time, brushing teeth, bed time, etc.). Think about all the words you can incorporate during these times. Implement those target words into the strategies you already use and love with your children! This adds no extra time to your day but it adds a wealth of learning and knowledge for your child.
Movement and sensory experiences ABOUND in the summer! Why? Because the basis of these skills is a four-letter word that all kids love. PLAY. Here are some ideas of how to reinforce important OT skills while you play this summer.
1. What Can I Do At the Pool? The pool is the perfect place to do some heavy work. This is anything that engages our proprioceptors which then activates our joints and muscles giving feedback to our limbs for what position they are in. Think about playing tag in the pool or just racing back and forth either by swimming or walking on the pool floor.
2. What Can I Do Outside at Home? Drag out that garden hose! Messy play with rice, beans, chalk or even foaming soap and bubbles is a great way to incorporate sensory play at home. This can be done with a sprinkler, containers full of water, or even just spraying your kid with the hose. Kids love to "wash the car" and this is great for muscle building!
3. It's Too Hot Outside! What Can We Do Inside? Indoor activities can be great for addressing fine motor skills! Make bracelets with beads and pipe cleaners, color a picture for a friend, or encourage your child to help you bake something in the kitchen! Even putting away the silverware can be a great task for kids to work on fine motor and visual motor skills.
Even though summer can be hectic and your daily schedule can sometimes feel even more chaotic than the school year, it's important to continue to carry over these speech and occupational therapy skills that your child has learned. Just as we must practice a new instrument or a new sport to get better, these skills take practice too. We can take a break from a lot of things over the summer, but if you feel chaos start to creep in during the break, try and remember to add a little beauty to the chaos. The beauty of your child continuing to learn while having the fun that only summer chaos can provide.
Happy summer from our family to yours!
Your Little Big and LOUD family,
Ms. Ashley, Ms. Liz, Ms. Laurel and Ms. Olivia