I know you’re busy, and building speech and language work into your child’s day is not always easy to do. But most families spend some time during the day in the car. Here are some quick and easy car ride activities that you can do while chauffeuring your little ones about town that will improve their speech and language skills as well.
Car Ride Activities #1:
I Spy: Vocabulary, Descriptors
This is one of the classic car ride activities but let me tell you how it can improve your child’s speech and language skills. For this game, you and your child will take turns “spying” things. This game can be adapted for younger and older children:
- Younger Children: For very young children, you will just want to name the things that you see during your car ride. This will give your child the labels for the objects and actions around. You can point out the things you see outside the vehicle (such as “Look! Tree”) or things inside the vehicle. Call your child’s attention to something by saying her name, saying look, pointing, etc. Then, say the name of what it is called (or what someone is doing if you are labeling actions). If your child labels something, expand on what she says by adding one word. For example, if your child says “doggie”, you should say “doggie walk” or “pet doggie”.
- Older Children: For an older child, describe something for him and see if he can guess what it is. For example, you could say “I spy something red, that’s an octagon, and has the letters s-t-o-p on it.” You can adapt your descriptions to your child’s skill level. If your child is just beginning to work on colors and shapes, you might use a lot of those in your descriptions. However, if your child is older and working on learning adjectives and more complex language, you can include more of those in your descriptions. Try to design to the game so that it is slightly challenging for your child but he still has a good amount of success.
Car Ride Activities #2:
Talking About Your Day: Recalling Past Events, Answering Questions, Sequencing, Grammar
Ask your child questions about her day and see if she can remember what she has done. Start with a vague question like “Tell me something you did today” but prepared to get a fairly short answer. You can follow up to this by asking more specific questions about parts of the day. You can ask questions like “what did you eat for lunch?” or “who did you play with during recess?”. If your child has trouble with these types of questions, you may want to only ask questions that you know the answer to so you can help her answer. You can also work on sequencing when talking about the day’s events. For example, you could ask your child “What did you do first this morning? Brush your teeth or put on your shoes? Finally, you can make sure your child is using full sentences using grammatical markers while having your child answer questions about her day. For example, you could ask her about what specific friends did during the day. When she answers you, make sure she says “he” and “she” to represent the gender of the friend.
Car Ride Activities #3:
Make Up a Story: Literacy, Grammar, Sequencing
Tell your child that everyone in the car is going to make up a story together. Each person will add one sentence to the story. You can start the story by saying something like “Once upon a time there was a girl, her dog, and a very old treasure map.” Make sure there is enough information in that first sentence to give your child some ideas. Then, ask your child to add a sentence to the story. After each sentence, it is the next person’s turn to add a sentence. If your child is having trouble with this activity, give him some prompts like “The girl has a treasure map. What could she do with it?”. Younger children may need a lot of help during this activity at first but they will get better at it as time goes on. As you build these stories, you will be helping your child to understand story/literacy skills such as how a story develops and is put together (for example, at the beginning you introduce the characters and settings and you can’t have the end of the story happen after the first sentence). Make sure your child is using complete sentences with good grammar during this activity.
Car Ride Activities #4:
If your child is working on saying sounds better and speaking more clearly, use a car ride as a time to practice those skills. You will want to adapt this to the level that your child is working at:
- Sound in Isolation: If your child is just learning a sound, you will want to give her plenty of practice making the sound by itself. Describe how to make the sound (such as “You make the /f/ sound by biting your lip and blowing”) and say the sound for your child many times so she can hear it. You can make it fun by singing a song but replacing all of the words with your child’s sound or doing something silly while you make the sound.
- Sound in Syllables: Once your child can make the sound by itself, play with the sound by putting it in non-sense syllables. You can say things like “buh, boh, boo, bah, bee” or “uhb, oob, ahb, eeb”. Have your child imitate saying the sound in syllables with you.
- Sound in Words: See if you can come up with words that have the sound your child is working on. Try some with it at the beginning, middle, and end of the word to see what is easiest for your child.
- Sound in Sentences: If your child is able to produce the sound consistently in words, have her work on creating a sentence for each word. For example, you could say “let’s come up with a sentence for the word ‘cookie’.” If your child has trouble, you can come up with sentences for her.
- Sound in Conversation: Once your child is able to say her sound in sentences, try reminding her to use it in conversation. When you get in the car, tell your child that you are going to focus on her sound during the car ride. Make sure she knows you will stop bugging her about it after the car ride is over. Try any of the activities above but make sure you’re listening for the sound she’s working on. If you hear her say one incorrectly, playfully catch the error by saying “Oh! I hear our sound! Listen, ‘cookie’!” Say the word slowly and exaggerate the target sound.
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