Greetings from the seaside! As I write this blog, my daughter is playing in the waves with her dad. They just finished counting the birds in the sky and now they’re talking about what swims in the ocean. Unbeknownst to her, my four-year-old is strengthening and developing skills as she has fun splashing my husband. Not only is the beach a blast, it’s good for our babes’ brains! There are lots of things you can do this summer to foster learning while your precious squeals with delight. Here are our top picks and tips.
Early learner: It’s a great place to work on joint attention with your little angel. Point out things that interest Alice, such as the lake, sandcastles and dogs, while you model language: “Look at the lake!” or “Wow, it’s a dog!” If she wants to go swimming, wait for her to look at you and point before going into the lake. Even better, wait for her to look, point and then say, “water.” Go right in and splash away, making the experience super fun. To further practice talking at the beach, bring preferred toys to set up communication temptations. For example, open a jar of bubbles and wait for Alice to say, “blow.” Every time she appropriately requests, get excited and blow lots of bubbles; if she doesn’t ask, don’t do anything. Alice will talk more consistently when she realizes that verbalizations get her what she wants.
Intermediate learner: As you swim and build sandcastles this summer, chat with Oscar to help him generalize and expand on some of what he learned in school or ABA therapy. Ask Oscar what animals live in the water, what vehicles move on the water and which community helper works at the beach. Also practice inferences with questions such as, “What would happen if you didn’t put sunscreen on?” and “Why do you wear a lifejacket?” and “How do you know the water is safe to swim in?”
Advanced learner: Have fun with spelling by turning it into a do-and-get game. For example, Alice correctly spells “l-a-k-e” and then you race into the water. Or if she aces ice cream, she gets cash for a cone. But don’t give her the precise amount; instead, have her count out the money to practice math. As well, the beach is a perfect place to better social communication skills. If Alice isn’t sure what to say to other kids, give her the words she needs – it can be helpful to write down phrases — to introduce herself to peers and invite them to play.
Early learner: Practice requesting at the park this summer. For example, push Oscar on the swing and wait for him to say, “push,” before you do it again. Also point out interesting things, such as birds, kites and the slide, to work on joint attention. The instant Oscar looks at you and then the item, give him lots of positive reinforcement.
Intermediate learner: Make a game out of one-to-one counting. Collect rocks together, then count them before building a structure. Or ask Alice how many leaps she wants to take and count as you jump, stopping at the chosen number. The park is also a perfect place to work on waiting and turn-taking. When there is a line up for the swing or slide, explain to your kiddo that she has to be patient, praising her frequently as she waits nicely for her turn. Don’t forget to engage Alice in conversation! Ask her situation-based questions that work on predictions, such as, “The child is at the top of the pole; what will he do next?” and “What do you think the boy will do after he fills the sand pail?”
Advanced learner: The summer is a great time to teach your superstar a new sport. Write out the rules of the game at home, practice the logistics with Oscar at the park and then, when he’s comfortable with how to play, encourage him to invite other kids to join him. If he’s not sure what to say, model phrases to help Oscar interact appropriately and confidently with pals.
Early learner: Get your sweetie stoked for the farm by singing Old MacDonald in the car. Pause and wait for Alice to fill in parts of the song, and belt out several rounds to practice the calls of many creatures. Later, as you walk by animals, ask her what sound they make, getting excited every time she “moos” or “neighs” appropriately.
Intermediate learner: Before arriving, review the things you might see on the farm. Get Oscar to name off animals and what they do (IE: cows give us milk and sheep give us wool). There, have inference- and prediction-based chats with him, asking, “Why do you think the farmer is watering the plants?” and “The farmer is giving hay to the horses; what will happen next?” If there’s a pick-your-own-fruit option, practice one-to-one counting as you place peaches into your basket. Back at home, bake with the food you collected. Use visual clues to help your sweetie know that it’s time to wash the fruit, sift the flour and mix the ingredients.
Advance learner: Foster Alice’s photography skills by putting her in charge of capturing your summer family adventure. And, if you pick fruit at the farm, have her count out the money when it’s time to pay. At home, follow a recipe together, tasking Alice to measure out all the ingredients to strengthen her math skills. When the pie is in the oven, invite your kiddo to create a slideshow using her pictures and explanatory captions. Work on spelling and punctuation as she writes about the day.
4. Amusement Park
Early learner: Packed with people, it’s a great place to work on Oscar sticking to your side rather than bolting away. Take him out of the stroller, hold his hand and praise him frequently for staying beside you. When Oscar hears that you’re excited and proud of him, he’ll be more inclined to walk safely with you. Don’t just wander around – go on gentle rides to expose him to different situations and sensations. Weee!
Intermediate learner: Lines can be off-putting but they also provide the opportunity to practice waiting. Start by standing in the shortest ones to build up Alice’s tolerance. Explain to your cutie that it’ll be a little while before it’s her turn to ride the merry-go-round and give her tons of high-fives, tickles and specific praise – “I love that you’re waiting so calmly and quietly!” – to encourage her to be patient. Also, keep Alice occupied with fun things that get her thinking. Ask her to count out the tickets she needs for the log ride and play I-Spy, naming the category, function and a feature of an item. Remember to work on language and independence skills, too. Let Alice order her own food at lunch from the waitstaff and, after eating, make it her responsibility to clean up after herself.
Advanced learner: Do math at the amusement park this summer! Help Oscar figure out how many tickets he needs to get on a few of his favourite rides and how much they’ll cost. When it’s time for a refuel break, have Oscar write down the family’s snack order. Stand back and let him order and pay for (using your money, of course) everyone’s grub to increase his independence and confidence.
My turn to go swimming in the sea with my sweetie! Have a stellar summer, everyone!
Image by imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net