When it comes to activities/home programming to target speech and language skills,
at times, it may be difficult to develop tangible activities. Occupational therapy and
physical therapy can both have more concrete practice activities that are measured in
a given amount of time and trials to target various gross motor, fine motor, or sensory
And while language may be more difficult to track, it is ALWAYS occurring and there
are many areas that can be targeted (increasing phrase length, speech sound production,
fluent speech, and so on).
A fun and easy way to practice is the classic game of “I spy”. It is great for many reasons:
you use the environment around you, encourage family participation, and can be done
anywhere, anytime. Tip: books are great to use for “I spy.” Bonuses to playing this game
are that it targets multiple areas of speech and language, and it can be great for both young
and old children. The targeted areas of speech and language include articulation, expanding
utterance length, using adjectives, answering, and asking questions, understanding
categories and other attributes… the list is almost endless!
Let’s say that your child is in early intervention (birth to three services). The purpose
of “I spy” at this level is naming what you see to give exposure to a vast vocabulary.
It will also encourage children to name what they see. As they begin to use more words,
you can target “see _” to increase phrase length, working up to “I see/spy __”.
This game can also be targeted receptively with having children find the named items,
both in the present environment or on the page of a book. Young children’s early
vocabulary consists of mostly nouns, “I spy” can target placing those identified nouns
into short sentences.
For preschool age and up, this game can also be used to target speech sounds.
For example, change it to “I find__” to target that /f/ or see if your child can find
items based on their target sounds. Or stick with “spy” in order to target the /sp/ blend.
Any sentence practice that has your child naming items will also work on their speech
fluency and promoting slow, easy speech! The classic game of taking turns (another
important skill) to have others guess what you are “spying” is great language practice
both expressively (having to describe it by its color or other attributes) and receptively
(identifying items by attributes as well). No books and nothing fun going around you?
Try a different version of this game called “I’m thinking of a (category item)”.
This helps with inferencing skills that are important for understanding more complex
language skills. You can also have your child practice
asking yes/no questions to deduce what the item is. When it comes to expressive
skills: sentence length, speech fluency, and question answering are all targeted.
I spy… with my little eye… some great speech-language practice that will be had by all
those who read this. If you want more great ideas on how to help your little one, we
have some great blogs on toys and programming at Milestone!