On to the next fairly common concern we hear from parents on almost a daily basis. What do most parents want their child to do? “Listen”! And by “listen,” don’t we mean follow directions and do what we ask? I can almost see you nodding your head. It is possible that your child is not ignoring you, or being defiant rather, he/she may not understand the language within the directions you have provided. There are a few activities you can do with your child to promote better understanding of language, and the concept of following directions in general.
The first activity to facilitate following directions is Simon Says. Simon Says is a fun way for children to follow directions while feeling as if they are playing a game, increasing the likelihood of their participation. Simon Says is most frequently used with body parts (I.e., Simon says touch your toes), which can be a great opportunity to introduce simple body parts if they are at that level. However, you can increase the difficulty by adding manipulatives (I.e., toys, home items, school items), attributes (I.e., colors, size, shape), or action (I.e., clap, jump, skip, run). To make it even more difficult you can increase the number of directions they must execute (I.e., Simon says touch your toes, point to the red apple, then clap; Simon says give me your blanket and jump). It is important to make sure model these actions if your child does not appear to grasp the concept. For example, you say, “Simon says give me your blanket and jump”, but your child only jumps, repeat the direction and promptly place your hand over theirs so “they” give you the blanket then jump with them and give them positive praise.
The second activity to facilitate following directions is coloring. Most children like to color, and to make it even more interesting or motivating, you can purchase coloring books with their favorite characters (I.e., Frozen, Paw Patrol, Shopkins). If working on identification of colors, provide them with primary colors and instruct to color a certain detail on the page a specific color. If that is too easy, you can expand to two-steps (I.e., first color the dress blue then color the bike green), target prepositions (I.e., color the item that is under the tree), emotions (I.e., Color the puppy who is happy), and much more.
One activity that can be applied to many children and adjusted in a variety of ways for both understanding and using language, is I Spy. I Spy can be played with children that are non-verbal and with children who are working on everything in-between. If your primary focus for this game is understanding, you may choose to select just a couple of items to present in front of your child such as a red ball, teddy bear, and banana. You can make it as simple as “I spy a banana” and have your child point to the banana, or you can make it as complicated as, “I spy an item in between a ball and a banana,” or “I spy something you throw”. This can be even more challenging by not presenting any items to your child, and using whatever environment you are in at that moment.
Finally, if your primary focus for this game is verbal expression, you can request your child select the item “they spy”. This allows your child opportunities to ask questions such as: where do you find it, what is it made of, what does it taste like, what does it do, what color is it, what does it smell like, who uses it, is it big or small? Additionally, it allows you to implement the expanding sentences technique mentioned above.
These are just a few activities to assist in understanding and use of language. Our speech therapy team at Temecula Valley Therapy Services can provide you additional activities in a personalized care program.