What if I told you that you could work on your child’s communication skills and go to the beach at the same time… Sounds amazing, right?
As a born and bred Novocastrian, I never stopped to think with my Speech Pathologist hat on how amazing our city was for enriching communication in our children! I’ve spent many a year passionately showcasing Newcastle through social media via an Instagram page I created, @mynewcastle. I kept being blown away by photographs of our beautiful city and thought, I need to show what we have to the world!
Being a passionate photographer, I’ve spent so much time photographing our beaches, lakes, animals (think Blackbutt Reserve, whales, dolphins) and many iconic locations we are lucky enough to be surrounded by (Nobby’s Lighthouse, Anzac Memorial Walk, Fort Scratchley, Glenrock Lagoon, Shepherds Hill, Christ Church Cathedral, I could go on).
Playtime is Full of Learning Experiences
I knew we had some pretty amazing places to explore but I never stopped to think how I could enrich a child’s language in my own backyard until I had a child of my own! Parents, it is SO easy! We know that learning is often best accomplished in the context of play and multi-sensory activities, so what better way is there to build communication skills than by getting outside and exploring Newcastle.
In a series of upcoming blogs, I’m going to focus my attention on the different places we have in our beautiful city that we can use to enrich language in our children. First stop – the beach! Newcastle’s coastline of stunning sandy beaches, well known surf breaks, ocean baths, and our general relaxed lifestyle means we have so much to offer our children. Newcastle is known for its incredible beaches and you don’t have to go far to find the perfect spot to visit to get your child excited about learning and talking about what they are doing and seeing!
Talk about what You See and Do at the Beach
Picture this.. the sun is shining, you head down to Merewether Beach, coffee in hand (thank you Bluedoor Kiosk!) with your towels, bucket, spade and swimmers (ocean temperature pending, although if your kids are like mine they’ll get in regardless!) What’s in front of you? The ocean, sand, ocean baths, ladies baths and with this, SO many things to talk about with your child! You can talk to your child about what you see and encourage them to point to the things they see and name them.
With so many rock pools around the Ladies Baths to explore, try spotting starfish, seaweed, sea anemones, shells and if you’re lucky a cheeky crab! Anything to broaden your child’s vocabulary with unusual words. We love a good game of eye spy in our house and the beach is the perfect place to play AND encourage language development at the same time. There are so many things to spy (especially things that start with the letter ‘s’); surfers, ships, waves, sand, ocean, flags, towels, umbrellas, lifeguards, baths, seaweed – the list is nearly endless.
Or you could encourage your child to describe where something is i.e. ‘The starfish is hiding under the rock’, ‘The surfer is on the wave’. These type of discussions can expand your child’s vocabulary and build their expressive language skills.
Build Expressive Language Skills while Collecting Beach Items
Children also love collecting and if you’re like me, you may already have a ridiculously large shell collection at your house and with it a wonderful collection of sand! Encourage your child to collect at the beach to build their language skills whilst they are doing it. Search for different things and use questions to build your child’s expressive language skills i.e. ‘what did you find?’, ‘where did you find it?’, ‘what colour is it?’, ‘where should we look next?’
Growing Receptive Language Skills at the Beach
You can also work on their receptive language (understanding) by giving them instructions, like ‘hats on first, then let’s build a sandcastle!’, or ‘sunscreen on before we can swim’. By providing instructions on what children need to do whilst collecting, exploring or building a sandcastle, using words such as under, next to, on, above, you are exposing them to different concepts that will build their language skills. Things like ‘put the sand in the bucket’, ‘put the shell on the sandcastle’, and ‘put your towel down next to mum’s bag’.
Remember, play is such a fabulous way for a child to learn and keeping it fun is so important! So head down to the beach and start exploring and I’m confident you will stimulate your child’s language while you’re doing it. Don’t forget that we are always here to help. If you have concerns with your child’s speech/language/fluency or feeding development, get in touch with us today!
Join Us at Merewether!
You can also find us down at Merewether Beach on the first Monday of each month from 9:30-10:30am for Stories on the Sand, a free community event where you and your child can enjoy stories, take part in fun activities and receive advice from experienced Speech Pathologists!
We can’t wait to see you there!
Images in this post courtesy of Emma Hyde.