First up try and get down at eye level or Face-to-Face with your child
Try to sit so that your child can see you easily, i. e. your child does not have to look up to make eye contact with you. We call that Face to Face: try and sit opposite your child. This makes it easier for you to see facial expressions and therefore pick up nonverbal /pre-verbal communication. Now you can connect and share the moment with your child.
OWL (Observe, Wait and Listen)
Never skip this step as it prepares us for what happens next !
First, try and simply watch your child quietly and listen and observe what he/she says or does; you need to know what your little one is interested in. For example with this toy (pictured below) we could observe that your child loves the actual spinning of the marble, perhaps more than that noisy click-clacking down the run. Or perhaps he loves collecting the marble at the end and feeling it in his hand.
You could start off with showing once how the marble goes down and say:“ look it goes round and round !” Then hold back and observe, without speaking, so that your child has time to explore the toy.
Just sit and avoid telling or showing your child what he or she could do with the toy. This gives your child an opportunity to explore and experiment.
Listen to what your child says, or look at your child’s non-verbal communication without interrupting. Your child will now feel and know that you are really present and that what they have to say is important. It’s best to avoid questions like, “What are you doing or “What’s this?” as that might be a lot of pressure when they don’t know what to say about that yet.
Respond immediately by showing interest
Once you have all the information from OWLing you can respond in the right way, for example: if she catches the marble at the end of the run and looks up with a smile or a sound you could respond with: you’ve got it! One marble in your hand! Nice playing!
Now how to join in the play:
First you can copy what your child is doing
If your child puts the first marble at the top of the run you can take a turn and do exactly the same once his marble is done. Ideally you might have another marble run, perhaps a similar one, it does not have to be exactly the same! Once your child has put the first marble in you can do the exact same with your own marble on your run. Your child is likely to look at what you are doing and you might well see a smile on their face or perhaps she might say: look at mine!
Next you can build on that
You can respond with simple comments like: “Wow! Yes I am looking at yours now! It’s spinning on the red one lots! I love the noise!” Now wait once more to see what your child says or does.
We are signalling to our child that we are really interested in what they are doing and saying so we can “collect” our child, i.e. bring him/her back into a joint interaction.
We want to try and not direct our child but respond with interest and fun! This creates a lovely stage for interaction and joint play! And this leads in turn to practising conversation and ever more opportunities for great speech and language skills to emerge.
Great activities we use in Speech and Language Therapy:
- Any cause and effect toys like this Marble Run
- Creative activities, such as mark making with crayons
- Train tracks (building and running the trains)
Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.