How to teach turn-taking

Often in pre-school visits I hear adults having to step in and tell a child to ‘share nicely’. But sharing is such an abstract concept. It can be hard for all of us to share at times, not least when you’re three years old and fully absorbed in your play!

In the early years, it can be a tall order to expect a child to share toys and take turns with others. It’s also an important skill for learning within a group. When I received a question about this from a learning support assistant, I was glad to give some suggestions to help us proactively teach turn-taking, rather than only intervene when it all goes wrong.

In this video I share a simple, structured approach to helping your child learn to take turns.

How to teach taking turns

Avoid trying to get your child to give you the toy first. There’s lots of steps before handing over a toy that can help a child learn about sharing and taking turns.

Let’s start with some simple turn-taking games in a 1:1 situation, then build up to taking turns with our own objects, then taking turns with one object between us, all before we try introducing the idea of sharing with another child.

I hope you have fun with these game suggestions!

PS. Did you like this? Check out my post on sharing books to build language right here.

Peppa Pig speech and language activity

Peppa is a sure-fire win in my speech and language therapy sessions. Most of my children absolutely adore Peppa and friends! So, I’ll often make the most of this natural interest to create an exploratory play activity where we can practise some key vocabulary together.

Here’s a simple water play activity that includes Peppa and friends.

Speech and Language Therapy activity with Peppa Pig

I love the challenge of creating inviting play opportunities from the toys that children love. So, if your child has a particular interest or favourite character, do let me know and I’ll do my best to create a game out of it.

Liked this idea? Then do check out my suggestions for sandcastle play.

Things to do with a cardboard box

For young children, a big empty cardboard box is one of the best invitations to play. There’s so many creative things we can do with a box and there’s plenty of ways to squeeze in some language activities while we play. Whether your child is learning their first words, starting to use simple phrases or having full-blown conversations with you, this video will give you some ideas to support them along the way.

Speech & Language ideas: things to do with a cardboard box

First word learners: Model simple phrases that match the activity, for example ‘put it in’ or ‘pull it out’. Or, name each object. A big expectant pause is a useful way to give your child the opportunity to name something, without putting them ‘on the spot’ with a direct question.

Phrase talkers: If your child is starting to use simple phrases, then it’s a great time to model positional language (e.g. in/on/under). Remember to sit next to your child if you use ‘behind’ or ‘next to’, because perspective matters with these more complex position words.

Conversationalists: As your child becomes more confident in chatting with you, it’s a great time to start developing their ability to use more descriptive vocabulary. The ‘clues game’ is a great excuse to practice this. Take turns to give each other clues to guess what’s in the box. You can use some key questions to help you: What do you do with it? Where would you find it? What are its parts? Can you describe it?

Sometimes, the simplest toys are the ones that give us the greatest excuse for conversation. I hope you have fun with these ideas!

Using sketchnotes to help language processing

When I first qualified as a Speech and Language Therapist, my clinical supervisor told me that his favourite therapy resource was paper and a stack of felt tip pens. I was baffled at the time, still lugging around board games, picture books and every other resource I could get my hands on; still spending my evenings printing, cutting and laminating…

But over the years I’ve come to see what a fantastically powerful and flexible resource a pen and paper can be, to support communication at every stage. From team meetings, to conversations with teenagers, to negotiating plans with pre-schoolers, putting our ideas on paper is hugely helpful.

In this video I share with you how I use Sketchnoting in my therapy sessions to support attention, comprehension and memory.

SKETCHNOTES to help language processing

Whether you’re a teacher, therapist, parent or team leader, I encourage you to get doodling and explore its potential for improving communication.

You can find out more about Mike Rohde, the inventor of Sketchnoting on his website. I can also heartily recommend his book, the Sketchnote Handbook.

For more visual learning ideas, check out my blog post on Thinking Maps.

Asking questions: how to avoid overwhelming your child!

We’re talking about the Blank Language Levels today (formally the ‘Language for Learning’ model). This simple framework breaks questions down into different levels of complexity. It’s hugely valuable for language development because we can apply it to all sorts of activities with children. One we know which level a child is at, then all the adults around them can focus on using questions at a level that supports their development, rather than being too easy or too hard.

How to ask questions that encourage language development

Level 1: Naming
This covers very simple questions that require a child to understand the name of objects. E.g. ‘What’s that?’ ‘Where’s the…?’

Level 2: Describing
At this level, children start understanding descriptive language and so can talk about things in a little more detail. Questions include ‘What group does it belong to?’ ‘What does it do?’ ‘What are its parts?’

Level 3: Storytelling
This is a huge step in any child’s language development. Being able to talk about events and understood stories is a key part of how we all operate in the world. Here’s a specific activity to start working on this skill.

Level 4: Reasoning
‘Why’ and ‘how’ questions are some of the trickiest questions we can ask a child as they require so much verbal problem-solving. There’s lots more elements to this level of language, but being aware of when you use these two questions is a powerful start.

The Blank Language Levels is one of my most popular workshops. It’s super-practical, with a clear roadmap for helping your child. People always leave fired up to start using new strategies with their kids straight away. Find out more.

Using playdough for Speech and Language Therapy

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When I’m packing my therapy bag I’m always interested in toys and resources that can be used flexibly for a variety of speech, language and communication targets. And playdough absolutely fits that bill! Beyond the usual action words and colour vocabulary, there’s lots of other things that we can do with playdough to support communication, especially when we start adding other toys to it. In this video I share five ways that I use playdough in my speech and language therapy sessions.

Using PLAYDOUGH for Speech and Language Therapy

Lots of the children that I meet are just starting to put two words together, so practising action words (roll, squish, stretch, splat, chop) is a great way to start practising simple ‘noun+verb’ phrases.

We can also use playdough to practice following instructions. To help children be really successful with this early on, I might act out the instruction with my own playdough set, so that child can see what’s happening as well as listening to the language involved. As children become more confident in their language skills I might ask them to give me some instructions. Explaining how we do something is an essential step in language development and also a great excuse to practise sequencing language (e.g. first, then, last).

Another useful aspect of playdough is asking for help. This is a skill that many of my children need to practise (as they’re more inclined to simply struggle on themselves, rather than ask for help.) The lids on playdough pots are tricky to open, which gmakes them a great resource for this particular target.

Playdough is also a perfect resource for building on a child’s shared imagination. We can build the most spectacular and unusual creations together and the language that this involves provides lots of opportunities to learn together.

Check out this blog post on balloons for more play ideas.

5 First Words (plus Makaton) to teach your toddler

What would be the most useful words for your child to be able to say? What would they like tell you about? Having in mind a handful of these core words is really useful. It helps us model consistent vocab and notice when your child starts attempting these words on their own. We want to help your child to request things that they want and talk about things they find interesting.

In this video I share with you my ideas for five first words to teach your toddler: words that are motivating, useful and fun. I’ll also show you the Makaton signs for these words (and if you’re wondering whether to teach your child some signing, then do check out this blog post).

5 First Words (plus Makaton) to teach your toddler

Do you have a list in your head of words to model to your child? You might like to use some of the ones from this video (I know ‘wow’ is a favourite!) and I bet there are lots of other favourite toys or actions that your child would like to talk about. If you have any vocab suggestions and would like to know the Makaton signs for them, then do comment below and I’ll make a video with more ideas in the future.

How to play Ready, Steady, Go

There’s a reason why ‘ready, steady, go’ is such a popular routine amongst Speech and Language Therapists helping young kids learn to talk. It’s highly motivating, builds attention and anticipation and uses a familiar repeated phrase… all elements that lead to language learning.

In all of my therapy sessions I’m looking for the thing that’s really going to catch a child’s attention and give them something that’s worth talking about. As simple as it sounds, I’m often asked by parents how to make Ready, Steady, Go games really useful for language. So, in this video I share my top tips.

How to play Ready, Steady, Go

Remember: repeat your familiar phrase lots of times, pause to give space for your child to join in and respond quickly when they do join. Finally, think about how you can set up your play so you’re at eye level, to support their attention and language learning.

If you found this helpful, you’ll definitely want to check out my Toddler Talk programme, which has just opened for enrolment with a special group edition. Find out more here.

Build your child’s thinking skills

Being able to reflect on past events is an important part of how we all learn and grow. When I was training to become a Speech and Language Therapist, there was a huge emphasis on becoming a reflective practitioner. I didn’t appreciate its importance at the time. Being able to talk about what had gone well and what could be improved didn’t feel nearly as important as the nuts and bolts of What To Do with the child sitting across from me in the therapy room.

But, over the years, I’ve become increasingly appreciative of reflective practice. Regardless of whether a therapy session goes well, there’s always lessons to be learned for next time. I’ll never stop learning!

Reflecting on past experiences isn’t just a postgrad training skill. It’s a valuable habit that we can help children develop from an early age. In this video, I share with you my all-time favourite way to help children reflect on their own experiences and become more resilient when things don’t turn out as expected.

A quick trick to build your child's thinking skills

Two stars and a wish is a child-friendly framework that can apply to so many things. Where could you introduce this idea in your own daily life?

If you like this idea, check out this daily routine that builds positive communication and resilience in your child.