Sand....you either love it or hate it. Most kids love it. Most parents hate it:) If you can handle sand, you can keep your child busy for HOURS and target speech and language skills at the same time with my speech therapy sand activities.
The best learning takes places when children are engaged and naturally interested/motivated.
Read below for ideas on how to use sand to target any speech or language goal.
Speech Therapy Sand Language Activities
Vocabulary: Toddler to Early Elementary
To work on vocabulary with young children, don't bring out the flashcards. This is not how children learn best. They learn by playing. So, while playing with sand, use the following vocabulary words in sentences.
- Scoop: Grab a shovel or your hands and scoop up sand and dump it out. Say scoop with each turn.
- Dig: Bury a "treasure" in the sand and have fun digging while you try to find it. Say "dig" while you play and encourage your child to do the same.
- Explore: While playing in the sand, talk about exploring different objects that can be found in the sand. Go on an adventure!
- Pour: Grab cups and fill them with sand. Pour the sand out and talk about how pouring is "falling down."
- Create: Talk about creating fun structures in the sand.
For more info on vocabulary learning, check out the toddler and preschool/elementary vocabulary learning page.
If your child is not talking yet, check out how to encourage first words with a kindle!
Following Directions: Preschool to Early Elementary
The ability to follow directions is a crucial language skill needed for academic and social success. Below are speech therapy sand ideas to practice following directions while playing with sand.
Sequential: This direction is multi-step and something has to be done first, second, etc..
- Grab the bucket and then the shovel
- First, make a hole. Second, put a truck in it
- Push a truck in the sand and then dump out the sand
Before/After: This is a temporal direction. Your child has to do something before or after they do something else. This is TRICKY!
- Before you fill your cup with sand, give me the shovel
- After you dump out the sand, drive your truck through it
- Scoop out sand before you fill your cup with water
Spatial: Give a direction with a spatial aspect (under, over, above).
- Stack the green cup on top of the blue cup
- Put sand under the bucket
- Pour sand over the rocks
Quantitative: Quantitative means quantity.
- Give me a few rocks
- Put a lot of sand in the bucket
- Let's find one shell!
Basic: Basic means one step, simple directions. If your child is having trouble. Start here!
- Find the purple shovel
- Give me a cup please
- Dig in the sand
Complex Language Tasks: Toddler to Early Elementary Students
Below are games that target both expressive (speaking) and receptive (listening) skills.
Comparative: Practice comparing and contrasting. This is important!
Verbs: Dig vs Dump - Talk about similarities (things you can do in the sand, it moves sand) and differences (gather vs gets rid of it, moves sand up vs down, etc...)
- Verbs: Dig vs Dump - Talk about similarities (things you can do in the sand, it moves sand) and differences (gather vs gets rid of it, moves sand up vs down, etc...)
- Objects: Shovel vs Bucks - Talk about similarities (both can scoop and dump sand, both are found outside) and differences (compare sizes, shapes, colors, and uses)
- Activities: Sand vs Rocks - Talk about similarities (both found outsides, both are round, both can be played with) and differences (size, texture, location such as gardens vs beaches)
Sequencing Narrative: Retell all the steps needed for different activities in the sand such as:
- Making a sand castle
- Creating roads
- How find buried treasure
Naming: Name all the different vocabulary words that fit into the following categories:
- Things found on a beach
- Uses for a shovel
- Places you can find and
Sorting: Organize sand toys by attributes.
- Objects made out of plastic
- Things that are round
- Things that are small enough to fit in your hand
A solid foundation in speech and language skills in necessary for success in reading, math, social relationships, and language arts! For more specific speech therapy activities, check out our practice ideas based on age and skill level.
Executive Functioning: Toddler to Early Elementary Students
For a quick review, executive functioning is our personal CEO. Executive function skills are the abilities to plan, control impulses and emotions, multi-task, pay and shift attention, and organize. Executive functioning skills will continue to develop as the frontal lobe continues to grow; however, we can start things off on the right foot!
- Plan what you need to play in the sand. Discuss what makes a good sand toy and why! Be sure to talk out loud through all of your thinking process. The thinking "out loud" or explicit teaching is a great strategy to teach a child how to organize thoughts and start to understand that we have thoughts, we can control them, and they help us!
- Sequence steps to make a sand castle. (First, get out the sand toys. Then, scoop sand into a bucket. Next, turn the bucket over. Then, lift up the bucket. Last, start over!)
- Talk about safety in the sun. Discuss importance of wearing sunscreen and drinking water when it is hot.
Like I've said before, there is so much technology and SOOO much academic pressure put on little ones, social skill development is lacking these days. It's becoming a soap box for me.
Social skills are one of the MOST IMPORTANT skills we NEED to know to be a successful at school, jobs, and any aspects of life. Social skills develop throughout our life through experiences, observation, and direct teaching. You can show good social skills from the start through modeling.
- Practice asking for a turn with a certain toy
- Practice inviting a friend or family member to join in the play
- Talk about who you want to invite over to play and how to do it. Talk about things you can do to make friends more comfortable (i.e., sharing toys, having a snack, etc...)
- If a child doesn't want to share, trade toys, or wait for a turn, talk about why it is so important. This will pay off in the long run!
Is your child working on saying sounds better? If so, you can practice articulation skills while you play in the sand.
Below are words to practice while playing. I created sample target words for all sounds in all word positions (beginning, middle, and end). If your child is working on any of these sounds, pick a word and practice it while you play in the sand. Functional and easy!
Some ideas on how to practice include:
- Say a target word and have your child repeat it before taking a turn (word level)
- Say a sentence with the target word and encourage your child to do the same before a turn (sentence level)
Read articulation therapy for how to do speech therapy at home and access free word lists!
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