Many children love splashing and playing in the pool during summertime or playing with toys in the bath. Did you know, however, that time in the water can actually have huge benefits on a child’s speech and language? Not only do many children with sensory issues feel calmer in the water, playing in the pool or bath is often highly motivating and fun! There is even some evidence that the pressure of the water on the abdomen can make it easier for individuals with neurological and muscular disorders to push air through their vocal folds and vocalize, helping to strengthen the muscles needed for good posture and speech! Here are some ideas to bring speech and language time into your bath time routine or into the pool this summer:
- Cause and Effect Toys: Cause and effect is a crucial pre-linguistic skill. Children must understand that they need to do something (cause) to get what they want (effect) to have effective communication! Water guns, bath squirters, and wind-up toys are great examples of cause and effect. If you want to keep it simple, however, simply fill a bucket with water and dump it out, or push a beach ball under the water in the pool, and let it pop up into the air. This is also a great opportunity for filling in routines, such as “ready, set, go!”
- Floating Toys: There are many floating toys available for the pool and bath such as fish, other animals, and boats. Spend some time playing with these toys with your child! Label their names, and perform and label different actions with them (think jumping, swimming, diving, spinning, splashing!) This is also a great opportunity to model prepositions, such as “in, up, down, under”. For older children, foam letters and numbers will also float, and can be a motivating way to work on number, letter, and color identification! Spread numbers or letters out in the pool or bath, and have a race to see who can find the correct one first!
- Dive Toys: Older children who are excellent swimmers may also enjoy playing with dive toys in the pool. This can be another great opportunity for following directions and color identification, and can even be made more difficult by multi-step directions, such as “find the blue ring and then find the green ring.” Having to search for the items in the pool and dive down multiple times can also help improve working memory and sustained attention.
- Picture Boards: If your child has limited verbal speech, they can still work on their communication skills in the water! A laminated core vocabulary board or laminated picture symbols can be attached to a foam kickboard and come into the water with them. Be sure to include lots of core vocabulary related to activities in the water and the ideas above, such as “warm, cold, push, turn, under, up, down, fun, don’t like, more, and all done.”
- Be Loud and Have Fun! Being outside means children can sing and be loud with less disruption to others than when indoors. Try changing the words to the “Wheels on the Bus” to the “Fish in the Sea” and get creative with different animals and sounds! If in clean water, try blowing bubbles in the water with your mouths and pair it with the “b” sound! Talk about what you see in the water, what you and others are doing, and follow your child’s lead and interests!
-Shana Dodgson, SLP