Learning Language With Bubbles — Ideas for 6 months to 5 years

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Happy Young Mixed Race Ethnic Family Playing with Bubbles In The Park.All parents will tell you there is nothing more heart warming than watching the joy on their child’s face as they play happily. As a professional who has worked with children for over a decade, and a mother of two, I can tell you that it is always the simplest things that young children love the most, and what could be more simple than bubbles!

Both in my speech therapy sessions and at home, I use bubbles CONSTANTLY. We always keep bubbles on-hand in the house, there are large bubble wands for outdoor play and I even keep small bubbles in my purse! I don’t know one child (or adult for that matter) who doesn’t love bubbles.

You usually don’t need a lot of bells and whistles in regards to toys, even toys for learning. All you really need is a child’s interest and you have a language learning opportunity. As many speech-language pathologists will tell you, there are thousands of ways to use bubbles to teach language skills. I have chosen a few that I think would be pretty easy for parents to do at home with their little-ones. However, before I get into the actual activity ideas, here are a few basic definitions of some ‘clinical terms’ just so we are all on the same page.

Expressive Language – This is the use of gestures, sounds, words and sentences to communicate. Babies begin by using gestures and sounds to communicate around 9 months of age. First words begin around 12 months and continue to grow at a steady rate. At around age 2 children put two words together and then use sentences by age 3. As they grow older sentences become longer and more complex.

Receptive Language – This is the ability to understand language, including words and grammar. Babies start learning vocabulary as early as 7 months of age. Vocabulary grows consistently as children get older, with larger vocabularies being related to stronger reading skills by school age.

Joint Attention – This is a pre-linguistic skill that is critical to language development. Joint attention means to have two people looking at the same object, at the same time, and being aware that the other person is looking too. At around 9 months of age babies learn to respond to bids for joint attention (e.g., when mom says “look” and points to an object the child will look at it). At around 12 months of age babies will learn to initiate bids for joint attention (e.g., the baby will point to an object to direct the adult to look at it too). As babies get older they become able to both respond to and initiate joint attention as needed during conversation.

Pragmatics (Social Language) – This is understanding and using verbal, but also non-verbal forms to communicate effectively. For example using tone of voice, facial expressions and body language to convey different meanings, making eye contact and turn taking. It also includes learning how to use language appropriately in different situations.

Now for the activities!

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Lynn is a speech-language pathologist and the founder of Talking Together. She has received a master’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Western University and has achieved clinical certification from Speech-Language and Audiology Canada.

Lynn also has additional certification as a Hanen Centre It Takes Two to Talk instructor, as well as training in applied behaviour analysis (ABA), picture exchange communication system (PECS), augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and American Sign Language (ASL).

Her research has been published in the journal of Memory and Cognition and the Canadian Journal of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology.

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