5 Tips for Playground Runs These Holidays
Are you a playground-run parent? Have littlies pulling at your clothes asking to go to the park? Playground trip can be lots of fun and a great school-holiday time-filler when you don't have any other plans. It is also a fantastic opportunity to get those language skills up. Without the distractions of home life, it's a little easier to engage in richer interactions with your children. Check out the tips below on how to boost their language development on your playground trips.
1. Be a commentator
Kids need to hear language being used and understand it before they can use it themselves. If you're a naturally chatty parent, this might come easily to you. If you don't usually commentate, try talking about what you're seeing them doing e.g. 'you're climbing up the stairs!', 'you're going down the slide!'. You can also talk about what you see/hear/smell/feel around you and your child e.g. 'the bark feels rough, doesn't it?'
And no, I don't mean that kind of stress! Stress your words, your key words! Think about what vocabulary you'd like your child to learn and use, and highlight it for them! You can stress words by saying them louder, with a change in intonation (the tone of your voice), saying them slower than they other words or adding a change in facial expression. Try out these sentences and stress the highlighted words using the techniques listed above, 'wow, you're JUMPING!', 'you're going FAST on the swing'. Stressing words helps them stand out and makes it easier for children to notice, understand and learn for their own use.
3. Ask questions
Questions can be a great way to help kids practice their language, but they do need to be balanced with our comments. Ask questions like, 'what are you doing?', 'what should we build?'. Remember to balance these by making comments in between, e.g. 'I'm digging in the sand!', 'we could play shops!'. If we're always asking questions, we're not modelling (teaching) how to answer questions. Give your child plenty of time to answer your question and make it shorter if they don't understand. If they still can't answer, model an answer for them so they know how to respond next time.
4. Be at their level
This refers to two different, but equally important things: physically positioning yourself for rich interactions by putting yourself in a position where you are face-to-face or close to it, and pitching your communication style to their developmental/age level. We often complain to our children that yell out to us from the other side of the house that if they want to talk to us they have to come to us. Yet, we somehow forget to do this with them, running commentaries or asking questions from afar. Give them the best chance to learn and engage in interactions by being close and at their eye-level if possible. It's also important to use the right language for your child's age or development level. Toddlers are more likely to respond to shorter sentences with fun intonation (use of voice). Whereas older children need more complex, rich language to stimulate their ongoing development. Know where your child is at and meet them there.
The above five points have been about how you can use your own language to help them learn, but this point is about you holding back to give your child space to do the talking. While it is very important that we do good modelling (talking to 'show them how it's done'), it's all too common that we 'talk, talk, talk' and don't give them an opportunity to practice themselves. You can wait by watching what they are doing (with interest) and letting them be the first ones to say something before you respond. This way, they'll be hearing language and practicing using it too.
Using strategies like the ones above can make your park outings a richer experience. Of course, above all, have a great time together and enjoy being in the moment with your little ones, while they're still equipment-climbing monkeys!
The photos in this post are all from Adelaide playgrounds, including the Gleleng Foreshore Playground, St. Kilda Adventure Playground and Nature's Playground at the Adelaide Zoo. For more great places to explore, visit Adelaide Playgrounds at adelaideplaygrounds.com.au