I often get asked how long and how often families should practice speech and language skills at home.
I recently posted an article on my own site on this very topic.
My professional opinion on this matter is based on what I have seen work the best with my own clients from my clinic.
I recommend that families shoot for two 5-minute sessions per day to target your child's speech and language skills.
The research is showing that shorter, more frequent sessions are more effective for learning and retention than longer, less frequent sessions.
(It's kind of like studying for a test for a few weeks instead of cramming the night before).
Five minutes does not give you much time to work on a lot, which is by design. Most children learn best when they are only working on one skill at a time.
By limiting your sessions to five minutes, you will only have time to work on one skill.
Your child's speech therapist will probably have an idea of what one skill would be best for you to work on at home.
Ask him/her for a recommendation. If your child is not currently seeing a speech-language pathologist, you can choose a skill for your child.
Try to choose something that is age-appropriate (other children his age are doing the skill) but that is not too hard for him.
You want to start with some easier skills that he will have success with instead of frustrating him right off the bat.
The key is to take whatever skill your child is missing and break it down to its easiest level.
For example, if you want to teach your child to say /p/ correctly, you should first start by just having your child say the sound by itself, like "p...p...p".
Then, you can make it a little harder by having your child say it in non-sense syllables, like "puh, poh, pah".
Then, you can move up to words, sentences, and conversation.
The same can be done for language skills, just make them as easy as possible to start with and build your way up.
I'm so glad you asked!
The goal of each 5-minute session will be to get your child to practice the skill correctly as many times as possible.
Imagine shooting for 50-100 repetitions of the same skill. You may not always get to that but it's a great goal.
So, if your child is working on saying the "p" sound, you want him to say that sound 50-100 times while you do a quick activity.
Or, if your child is practicing pronouns, you want him to repeat 50-100 sentences that use the pronouns "he" or "she" while doing the activity.
If the skill you're doing takes a little longer to practice, you can reduce the target number of repetitions.
In order to make this happen, you will need an activity that doesn't take a lot of time and won't take away from the goal of the 5 minutes, which is to practice the skill over and over again.
Here are some great ideas of activities you can do while getting your child to practice his skill:
Go to a sporting goods store and purchase a counter. This is a small, round object with a single button. Each time you push the button, the counter goes up by one.
Set a goal for your child (number of repetitions) and tell him to push the button each time he does the skill correctly. Once he hits the target number, he's done.
Time him and see if he can beat his old score (but he has to say it correctly for it to count, no rushing through and messing up!).
Put a bunch of plastic coins in a bag but color one of them red. After each repetition, you and your child will both pull out one coin.
If anyone pulls out the red coin, they have to put all of their coins back (bankrupt!).
Whoever has the most coins after 5 minutes wins. (Got this one from www.5minutekids.com , love it!)
Look for pictures of yoga poses for kids online. Have your child choose one and hold it while he does his skill.
See how many repetitions he can get in before he loses the pose.
Draw lines or shapes on a piece of paper. Then, laminate that page or put it in a plastic sheet protector.
Have your child trace the lines or shapes with a dry erase marker while repeating his skill. When he's done, erase and use again next time.
Each time your child practices the skill, give him a block to place atop a tower. When the tower falls, take the blocks back and start over.
See how tall he can make it before it falls.
Draw a hopscotch track (or other shapes/numbers) on the ground and have your child do the skill once before each jump or move on the track.
You need at least 2 people for this but you can be the second person if need be.
Have both people sit on their bottoms with their knees up. Each time your child does the skill, everyone gets to move forward one scoot.
Bottom must stay on the ground, no picking it up and jumping.
Whoever gets the farthest in 5 minutes wins.
Place beans or marbles in a small container. Get a second similar container.
For each repetition, move one bean or marble to the other container. When all the beans/marbles are moved, you're done!
Each time your child does the skill, have someone else (you or another adult/child) jump or do another action.
See how many times your child can make that person jump during 5 minutes.
Give your child a pinch of playdough (or a similar substance) for every repetition. Once your child has all of the playdough, he can play with it.
Start with your hand on your child's head or toes.
For each repetition, move slightly closer to his belly. When you get to his belly, tickle him like crazy. Then, start over and repeat until the 5 minutes is up.
When you are walking somewhere with your child, have him take one step for every repetition.
Try this one when you're walking to the playground from the car or into the house when you get home.
While you're sitting at a red stoplight, see how many times your child can do the skill correctly before the light turns green.
Get a playing card for every repetition. When your child has all of the playing cards, you can play the game with him.
Blow bubbles for every 10 repetitions that your child does.
Give your child a puzzle piece for every 10 repetitions he does.
Count how many correct productions your child can do in 5 minutes.
Graph that on graph paper and see if he can beat it the next time.
Drop connect four pieces into the game randomly, one for each repetition. At the end, see if there are any patterns or designs created from where they all landed.
Wind up a toy and let it go. See how many times your child can do the skill correctly before it runs out of power.
Throw a ball back and forth and play catch while your child practices the skill.
There you have it!
Twenty awesome ways to work on speech in five minutes. Make sure that you pay attention to your child's frustration levels.
If your child is getting frustrated with these activities, you will want to either make the skill easier or back off to a shorter time.
You want your child to feel positive about working on speech, it shouldn't be a battle. Thanks so much for reading!
Carrie Clark is an M.S. CCC-SLP who owns a private practice and SpeechAndLanguageKids.com
She creates speech and language activities and resources for families of children with speech and language delays as well as the professionals who serve them. She covers a variety of topics and ability levels on her website, podcast, and Youtube channel.
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