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Monday 21 September 2015

Baby and Toddler Sensory activities to develop speaking and language

In this post you will find some information on how to use language within sensory play for babies and young children, followed by some play examples and links to some sensory activities for you to try at home..

baby toddler sensory activities to develop speaking and language

Now the first question you may ask is "why is everything green?"

The purpose of these resources is to encourage Arthur to use his senses to choose and explore the different  materials.  I have noticed in the last few months that Arthur often has a particular interest in the colour green, therefore, I already know that Arthur is using his sense of sight to distinguish between resources based on the colour he can see - choosing a toy because it is green.

I want to encourage him to explore the materials using some of his other senses:

  1. Touch
  2. Smell
  3. Sound
  4. Taste
  5. Sight - for details other than just the colour.

I was interested to find out which materials he would choose to play with if all of them were the same colour.

It also means that i can introduce words to describe the different resources based on things other than colour - often it is easy to revert to the obvious when describing objects to children "look it is a blue ball" instead of talking about its other properties - often children learn and pick up on colours very quickly, so this activity is especially handy for toddlers and pre-schoolers in order to give them the language they will need to use as they get older.

Don't be afraid of using 'big' or 'complicated' words with young children. They only seem like big words to us because we don't use them often. If children are exposed to language from the start these words will seem normal. A great example of this is when I had an 'Anticipation box' for my Reception Class - some parents felt the word alone was too advanced to use with young children. Within a couple of weeks all of the children could use and understand the meaning of the word, as well as say it fluently!  Children are capable of so many amazing things so don't limit your language to simple single describing words if you can teach them a better one!

With young children, always start with and include the  basics.

 Here are some examples of describing words that could be used on some of the resources above depending on age and stage of development:

  • soft / hard
  • rough / smooth
  • spikey
  •  fuzzy
  • fluffy
  • squishy
  • bendy
  • shiny
  • sparkly
  • cold / warm
  • round / circle / sphere
  • square / rectangle / cube / cuboid
  • see  through / transparent
  • opaque
  • 2d / 3d /flat / solid
  • noisy
  • small / little / short / smaller / shorter
  • medium sized
  • big / large / wide / tall / bigger / larger / wider / taller
  • heavy / light

Most of these resources were picked up in budget/pound stores or made using recycled materials. The most important thing (especially if these resources are to be used by a baby) is to make sure that they are safe. Always expect that a baby will use their sense of taste to explore anything they can get their hands on - and make sure that the resources are suitable - so no small or sharp parts.

We now use a lot of the items pictured on one of our 'play shelves'  - which you can see on my instagram play shelves highlight reel here

The home made resources pictured  (sensory glitter bottle and plastic sensory pouches) are always properly supervised (just in case) and you can find out how to make these yourself at home here: 

Click here to find out how to make your own glitter sensory bottle.
Click here to find out how to make your own sensory pouch.

baby toddler sensory

Giving your child the language

It's very easy to jump straight in with a question when talking to a child, often " oh what have you got there??"

Try to avoid this - especially with older children who are aware that you know full well what the answer is. If you ask an older child/toddler what colour top they are wearing when its is quite clear and obvious to you what colour the top is then you are asking them a 'testing' question. The child may feel under pressure to answer your questions correctly and may not want to respond at all - this wont help build language and confidence in conversation.

Start by offering vocabulary  with action words and descriptions - especially if you are talking to a child who is very shy. Explain to them what you can see and what they are doing :-

"Hello, I can see that you have a bottle in your hand - it is a very shiny bottle, it has sparkly glitter inside. Now you are rolling the bottle on the floor. You are pushing the bottle forwards and then backwards. Now you are tapping the bottle on the floor - i can hear the water splashing around inside. You are lifting the bottle up high into the air, stretching up tall."

Be careful not to fall into the trap of ending your sentence with "aren't you?"

Makaton and baby signing is another way of helping to develop speech and language in babies and young children. Lots of people ask can baby signing delay a baby learning to talk, but the opposite is actually true. 

For babies and very young toddlers who are starting to speak - simply holding one object and giving them the name of the object and one describing word (whilst touching/smelling etc)  will be enough at first  to help them build up their understanding of the meaning of the words.

You may like to read more on how to develop speech and language in young children  by reading this linked post. 

For more open ended play ideas, have a look at my post 19 tuff tray ideas for open ended play.

Sarah x 

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