Speech therapy. How to develop your child's speech with play.

Sep 17, 2014

In therapy sessions, or at home, developing your child's speech is all about play.

We're always told not to compare children. They're all different and all do things in their own way, in their own time. In fact, a favourite quote of mine is,

"Not all children are ready to learn the same thing at the same time in the same way." 
- Kathy Walker

However, even knowing and understanding all of this, when my son did not start to communicate verbally in a similar way to how his older sister had, I admit that I felt quite concerned. I'd done everything the same. He'd been read to since birth (a lot), talked to and chatted with constantly . We made sounds, did rhymes, sung songs and played together. But, unlike his sister, he did not choose to naturally communicate verbally and would refuse to mimic sounds or try new words. His non-verbal communication was spot on and he was always able to get across what he wanted (which was encouraging) but oral language was not something that came easily to him.

My child is showing a delay in their speech development. Where do I start?

Being a teacher, I was aware that early intervention is very important when it comes to children and learning difficulties, so despite all the advice I was getting from people to, "Just wait, it'll happen," I needed to do something about it myself and ensure that I was giving him the best start that I could. My son was about 19-20 months old when I first sought out external advice. Many people will say that it's too early to really start getting concerned before 2 years old, but you know your own child better than anyone. If you're concerned for any reason, it's better to seek out assistance than possibly stressing out unnecessarily for months and months.

When concerned about your child's speech development the first people to speak to are your child's doctor and maternal health nurse. Through them, they can organise and refer you for any specialists and tests.

We started by getting an assessment of where his development was at, as well as organising for a hearing test. This is usually a good starting point. From there, doctors and professionals are able to see if there are any particular issues that might be delaying speech and start to rule things out.

As his hearing was fine, the next step for us was being referred to a Speech Pathologist.  
Many speech pathologists are private practice here in Australia and can be quite pricey if your child needs regular sessions. There are ways to get into government subsidised classes so talk to your GP or Maternal Health Nurse about how and where you can sign up for them. There is often a waiting list though and the spots will often go to children in higher need (such as older children).

We went to a few sessions with a private Speech Pathologist and after observing, listening and discussing the best ways to help my son develop his oral language, I was confident that I could take over and continue to help him myself at home without the added cost of a weekly therapy bill.

10 tips to help your child develop their speech through play at home

It was clear from the speech pathology sessions I attended, that my son was on the verge of talking but that helping him form those words was going to take a bit more of a concentrated effort than his older sister required. Having the speech pathologist confirm my original beliefs that learning through play was always going to be the best way was encouraging, and gaining the understanding of how I could go about better approaching this play time with him, in order to best help develop his speech, was also something of great value.

The main points that I learnt about trying to encourage speech development through play are:
  1. For your child to develop their speech, they have to practice. It can be tricky getting reluctant speakers to talk, so engaging them in meaningful play and activities where they are naturally encouraged to participate in talking, is essential.

  2. One-on-one play time is very important. Make regular times (at least once daily for a minimum of 10-15 minutes) to sit down with your child, without other distractions and engage with them. (This can be tricky with other siblings around but it's important that they have this uninterrupted time with you)

  3. Look at your child's interests and try to engage them with these interests. Eg. If they are really into animals, plan your one-on-one play times to involve playing with animals. If they are always very active and struggle to sit still, try to play together in a way that allows them to move whilst still encouraging them to talk.

  4. When speaking to your child during these one-on-one play times, use clear, short sentences that are directly related to the play. Eg. While playing with your animals, move the cow and say "cow says moo. mooooo" When the cow is knocked over, "Oops, cow fall down." When you jump the cow over a fence, "cow jump over fence."
    You don't have to speak like this to your child all the time, just during your one-on-one play times.
  5. Focus the language on useful words that will help your child communicate better.
    Prepositions such as, "on, in, out, off, up" etc.
    verbs such as "drink, eat, jump, play, read." and
    nouns, eg. "Mum, Dad, hand, foot, cup" etc.

  6. Give your child a chance to respond. Often it will take children longer to process your question or what is being spoken about and for them to think of an appropriate response and say it. It's easy for adults and other children to jump in with the answer after a couple of seconds when it seems as though the child is not going to respond, but you need to allow a good 10 seconds or more for them to attempt to answer verbally.

  7. Find new and engaging ways to play with them that allow you opportunities to practice other words. Eg. Blowing bubbles with them will allow you to practice the language that will come naturally with that activity, such as, "more," "bubbles," and "blow." Playing with cars can encourage language such as, "go," "stop," "drive," "brrrrrroooom," and "beep beep."
    If your child has particular sounds that they are struggling with, eg. saying "wewy" instead of "very," try and find ways to play that will naturally include that language. Eg. Build a tower together. A tower that is VERY, VERY tall! Use that time to say and practice the language as much as possible.

  8. Repeat what your child says, clearly and correctly so that they can hear how it should sound and reinforce the language that goes with the action. Eg. If your child indicates you to blow more bubbles by saying, "mor," you can say, "More. More bubbles?" and wait for their response. Trying to engage them in conversation and take it further is important. Your child might now nod, or say "yes," or say "more" again. You could then say, "Yes, yes you can have more bubbles."

  9. Praise your child for their efforts. Positive reinforcement can work wonders on children so be sure to acknowledge their efforts at communicating verbally and encourage them to continue.

  10. Be patient. Try to remember the message at the top of this post, that all children learn at their own pace. Your child's development may seem slower than others but so long as it's improving, you should get there. Who knows, it may suddenly click for them and you won't be able to stop them talking. Just remember to give them time and not to expect things to suddenly change in an instant. Your child might be reluctant to your one-on-one play times at first or not be able to stay focused for a very long period of time, but so long as you keep persisting with it, you should see results.

Please remember that if you are concerned at all about your child's development, if their development stalls or especially if their development starts going backwards, you should seek out advice from experts in these areas. Some children will require or greatly benefit from a joint effort from a specialist and parents so it's important that any concerns you have are addressed and you know the best way to go about it with your child.

For more info and ideas on helping your child develop their language through play, check out these great sites:

Happy playing,
Debs :)

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Recycle Box Challenge for kids

Sep 13, 2014

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 As a way to try and re-use more of our waste on a more consistent basis (instead of just storing handy bits for those "one day" projects), I started up a weekly Recycle Box Challenge for my kids.

I love that this challenge encourages my children to think creatively and look "outside the box." 
It allows them to practice skills such as cutting, painting and fine-motor. It allows them to test ideas, to problem solve and to put designs into action.

The end result is never the main focus, however. It is the process, including both the cognitive and physical processes, that an open-ended activity such as this provides, that is important.

How to set up a Recycle Box Challenge for your kids.

Doing a weekly recycle box challenge with your kids couldn't be easier. In a basket or a box, put some basic arty/crafty supplies that your children can use to help transform the recycled goods into creations from their imagination. Then, as the week goes by, add any random bits of recycled packaging straight into their challenge basket. The great thing about this is that the combination of materials is always changing, which means the possibilities for creations, is always changing too.

Every week, our recycle challenge basket contains:
  • Paints/paintbrush/paint pallet 
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Some variety of string/ribbon
Each week, various recycled goods are added such as:
  • plastic bottle tops
  • foil/aluminium packaging
  • plastic bottles/containers
  • wrapping paper
  • cardboard boxes
  • ribbons
  • divided containers
  • clean washed cans/tins
  • string bags
Keeping the combination of materials different each week will encourage your children to look for different ways to use the materials.

One of my favourite parts of the experience is watching them dive through the box/basket to see what's in there. I love popping the odd sparkling treasure or something a little special in the bottom on occasions to see their delight when they discover it. Sometimes, it's almost like you can see the wheels of their mind turning with each piece they discover as they start formulating ideas about how they could work together and what they could create.

Handy Tips:

Simplify this activity for younger children by providing less materials and your assistance. Give children creative control over the pieces they'd like to use and how they'd like to use them but be there to help with taping things together, holding things in place, etc. 

Extend this activity and take the learning further by first encouraging children to look through the materials available and then formulate and write/draw a plan or design of their creation. They can then work from this plan and evaluate what they need to adapt and see how it evolves as they create. Children can also write about their end result and the process they took to get there. Did their end design turn out as they originally planned? Why/why not?

Get well set up before they start. Creativity can be a messy process so be prepared before you start by putting down splash mats and having cleaning supplies like a damp cloth and something to mop up spills at the ready.

Talk with your child about what they are doing and ask them questions. This will help them understand the physical and mental processes they are going through as well as giving them the vocabulary to describe it. While children are being creative and focused,  it can be a great time to talk about sensitive issues and their feelings. (Obviously children also just need the time to be left alone with their thoughts and creative processes so don't feel the need to talk or ask them questions the entire time)

- Use new language and descriptive words like, "creating" "design" "process" etc. This will help with their language development.

- Still feeling creative? Here are some of our other creative ideas for kids. 
(click on the pictures to go to the post)

 art for kids, fun art, canvas art   painting activity, kids activity, activity for kids  activities for kids  kids art

More activities using Recycled Materials

Would your kids enjoy a recycle box challenge?

Happy creating,
Debs :)

Have you got a copy of the Three to Five Playful Preschool e-book yet? Packed full of fun learning activities and printables. Not available elsewhere.
ON SALE THIS WEEK ONLY. USE CODE 3to5 for 50% OFF! (quick, ends 14th Sep)

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Travel with Kids: Fiji

Sep 9, 2014

Travel is an important part of my life and something that we prioritise as a family. It is my aim for us to travel as a family to a different overseas destination each year. Making memories, sharing experiences, learning about new cultures, languages, foods etc. is something that I value very highly, so we save our pennies each year and I do a lot of research to get us to the places I want at the prices we can afford. I want my children to be empathetic, kind, contributing members of society and I think that giving them a broader view of the world and people as a whole will help them develop this and help cement them as caring citizens of the world.

For this year's international holiday with kids, we decided that Fiji would be a fabulous destination. Ever since holidaying together in Fiji many years before having kids, my husband and I always wanted to come back and do Fiji with kids.

The locals are generally very friendly, laid back and great with kids! Fiji is also only a 5 hour flight from Melbourne, Australia and you can fly direct as well (a mega bonus when travelling with kids).

We had previously stayed down on the Coral Coast of Fiji which is a lovely destination with nicer beaches than closer to the airport. It is quite a journey still once you're off the plane though, so this time we decided to stay in closer and explore a different part of Fiji.

Here are some of the pics from our week long adventure. See the bottom for related links and more info on the specifics of where we stayed, etc.

Handy Links and info


We stayed at Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa on Denarau Island. It was a fabulous resort to stay at with kids. It's major features for us were:
  • Huge pool. This is where we spend most of our time so the pool is important to us. 
  • Waterslide. The kids (ok, and the adults too) loved this! What fun to have your own water slide to burn some energy running up to and sliding down over and over and over...
  • Easy walking distance to shops and restaurants (although, similar shops are already at the Sofitel and we discovered that the prices were the same as down at the Port)
  • Large grounds right on the beach with water sports available
  • Great breakfast buffet (breakfast buffet is my favourite part of a holiday, haha, this one had champers!) 
  • Kids Club. We only used this once as we were enjoying time together too much to need to use it but the kids insisted on going at least once. They had a great time.
  • The location. Denarau island is a great base to stay for getting around Fiji and for day trips out to the islands.


Denarau Island is attached to the mainland and is about a 15-20 minute drive to the airport. It houses Port Denarau which is a shopping precinct and includes Denarau Marina which is where you would need to go to for travel out to the other surrounding islands. There are lots of restaurants and shops at Port Denarau and it is very easy getting around either by foot (it was about a 10 min walk to the port from the Sofitel.. with kids walking) or by island bus (about $2 to ride and they run constantly).

Day Trip:

We only did one day trip out to an Island but it was a major highlight. The further out you go, the better the beaches and snorkelling get. If you're after the white sands and clear water, heading out to an island is a good start.

We did the Oolala Day Trip out to Savala Island. It was one of the few cruises that we didn't have to pay for the kids! (Kids under 6 were free!). It involved about a 45 min cruise out with the fantastic crew entertaining us (Did you check out the video?) and about a 1.5 hour trip back. The rest of the time was spent on the small island of Savala and there is more than enough things to entertain you while there. In fact, the only bad bit was not having enough time to do everything we wanted to. I could have stayed on that little island over night! Food (not hugely fancy but delicious) and drinks (beer, wine and soft drink) were all included throughout the whole trip. The snorkelling and all the water sports (kayaking, paddle boarding etc.) were included. It was a really fabulous day that was a highlight for the whole family. Highly recommended.

Other tips:

  • The Coral Coast of Fiji has lots of great resorts for staying with kids as well. Better beaches but more remote so a much further journey from the airport. (Which can sometimes be a bit frustrating with small children). The resorts down there will probably have slightly cheaper options than on Denarau Island (where all the resorts are 5 star) or on the individual island.
  • To stay out on the Island groups, usually means booking a long time in advance as they are very popular spots. For a first time to Fiji, I'd really recommend staying on Denarau Island if you can as it is a great base where you can get to everywhere and check out all the islands and other resorts for future stays.
  • There isn't any need to book in day trips before you go. Your hotel information will be able to easily help you with all the requirements you need.
  • Did you notice the kids cool SwimFins? We were sent these to try out and can safely say, we LOVE them. The kids confidence in the water improved dramatically, as did their swimming. We'd definitely recommend them. (We weren't paid or obliged to share this info, we received the swimming aids for free and genuinely loved them!)

Have you been to Fiji with kids? 

Happy travelling,
Debs :)

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