End Your Day a Therapeutic Way
It has been proven time and time again that young children learn best doing
familiar things with familiar people in familiar environments. This is the reason why early
intervention services (0-3 years) should take a whole family approach with lots of
caregiver education and training.
Parents and caregivers are a child’s first and most important teachers. Below I will outline some tips and tricks that I use with my family to make our bedtime routine fun, educational and engaging by taking routine, familiar
tasks and adding a therapeutic twist!
Bath time is a great time to target early developing areas of language. Starting
as early as the infant stage, you can encourage vocal play and vocal productions by getting on their level, gaining eye contact and by responding to and imitating your child’s vocal attempts. This helps to show that their vocalizations have meaning and purpose. You can hide water toys under bubbles to practice object permanence (searching for an object removed from view); model fun and animated early speech and exclamatory sounds such as “splish!” “splash!” and “pop!”. Symbolic sounds are easier for infants to recall, plan and produce. Sing songs while labeling and identifying body parts (e.g. “this is the way we wash our toes, wash our toes, wash our toes; this is the way we wash our toes with soap and water”. Familiar social songs and games create verbal routines giving children predictable language opportunities. Use water themed toys (sea animals, mermaids, etc) and use repeated modeling of targeted sounds and words. As your child begins to imitate your productions, you should expand onto their utterances by adding an additional word. For example, they imitate “fish” you reply “blue fish”. We have even taken the balls from our children’s ball pit and filled the tub! We practiced naming our colors, counting balls of each color and sorting balls into categories. Get creative and have fun!
Sensory play includes any activity that stimulates a young child’s senses of
touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing, as well as anything that engages movement and
balance. Bathtime in and of itself is a sensory activity, but for some extra sensory
support we have lowered the lights and filled the tub with glow sticks, played with
fizzing bath bombs and used water beads. Sensory activities, in addition to being fun
and interesting for babies and young children, encourage them to explore and
investigate their surroundings. Don’t forget to always practice safe bathtime habits and
never leave your child alone in the tub.
Other routine tasks leading up to bedtime include: pottying and brushing teeth. We have found that a reward system using sticker charts helps to keep our kids motivated to perform the same task night after night. The sticker (reward) reinforces the behavior you want. It also helps you focus on the positives in your child’s behavior.
Before we say goodnight we always end our day with a book. The benefits of reading to your child are endless. To promote early language through reading follow the P.A.T. acronym: Point to pictures as you say the words, Act out words with gestures, facial expressions and voices, and Tell the meanings of words. Once finished, flip back through the pages for repeated exposure to targeted vocabulary words, sounds and gestures.
Our days are filled with opportunities to create teachable moments with our children as long as we remember to focus on connection over instruction, limit distractions, be present and interact playfully!