Clinicians and parents can sometimes get stuck in a stand-off with a young child who really doesn’t want to participate. One of my favorite ways to get a student moving and on to the next activity is to engage them to help me clean up that undesired therapy activity that they didn’t want to do! It is one of the sneaky ways that I can promote language development during our session! (Shh!)
It might sound silly but you can get a LOT of engagement and even target speech and language therapy goals with some good old fashioned cleaning up! The goal here is to get student buy-in and engagement for your next activity. So, in order to do this, I turn their refusal (which you are still honoring) into a great play idea.
Cleaning up is actually a behavior strategy that almost always works for me! If you have a resistant student, try some of these tweaks to “cleaning up” listed below.
How Does Play Help Speech and Language Development?
I consider this “sneaky cleaning up behavior strategy” as a play activity with my students. They didn’t perform the activity requested but now I can try to engage them in “playing” clean-up with me.
You may be asking, why is play important for speech and language development? Play enables children to practice the language skills they have learned and used to expand their vocabulary. Plus, there is a definite correlation between language development and levels of play. This is why it is a great way to promote some more speech and language skills during our session!
Strategies to Promote Language Development during Clean-Up:
Let’s look at 5 ways to promote speech and language development by engaging students to help you clean up:
1. Find the ___.
Try asking students to find a specific object while cleaning up. For example, ask them if they can find the fish. Make it even MORE fun for them by having it be an object literally RIGHT in front of you but pretend like you cannot see it. Take it a step father by having them give you the function of the object or the category OR you do it instead. For example: Can you find that animal that swims? Where is that animal that flies? I know he was here somewhere! See how you can sneak in some speech and language goals there?
2. Clean up using their favorite song.
I love this strategy because more often than not, it gets students moving or smiling when their favorite song comes on. I try some other strategies such as asking them to help me until the song is over. Do your best to get them singing along. If you can move it into dancing and even some sensory movement, then it’s a HUGE win!
3. Clean up the WRONG way
What is more fun than cleaning up the WRONG way? Not much! If your student is still resistant to the above cleaning tips, get really silly and clean up the wrong way: Put items in the wrong place, make things a bigger mess or even put together a very silly Mr. Potato Head! Before long they will be joining in and (hopefully) correcting you with all the giggles. I find that being silly in speech sessions really takes the pressure off of students and sets the tone that speech is FUN!
4. Change the activity
Maybe you’ve tried some of the tips above to get them to start talking or cleaning up but NOTHING is working yet. Try changing the activity. If you were going to play a fishing game, try THROWING the fish into the box and making it a tossing game instead. Just a little tweak to the undesired activity like this, can sometimes make the activity much more desirable and elicit so many speech and language skills! Sometimes I find that students will even take the lead on changing the activity and I will follow their cues. Remember-the goal is to ENGAGE students and get them COMMUNICATING so sessions may not always go exactly as planned and that is okay.
5. Wash the Toys
I am a huge believer that most every child just LOVES to wash things! Take any toy that you are playing with and make a BIG deal about washing it. “Wow! Look how dirty this baby doll is! Oh my gosh I can’t believe I almost had you touch this baby! We really need to wash her first!” If you don’t have a sink handy, you can easily use baby wipes instead. This is a really fun way to target TONS of language goals!
More Activities to Encourage Speech and Language Development
Besides playing in speech therapy and teaching kids to clean up, there are so many different activities for encouraging speech and language development. ASHA has a great article all about this topic that you will want to check out for promoting speech and language in children from birth to six years old.
Here are some other tips to try to promote speech and language skills:
- Play games to encourage speech and language development
- Check out these different articles on reading with your 6 month old, 18 month old and 2 year old.
- Pretend play with Community Helpers
- Wordless Picture Books (my fav!)
- Cooking in speech therapy
What are your favorite activities to promote speech and language opportunities when things do not go as planned?
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