Parents and two young children on a family road trip together for summer vacation

6 Ways to Stimulate Language Development During Your Family Vacation

Your vacation getaway is finally here—hooray! Even though you’re about to take a well-deserved break, that doesn't mean that your child’s language development needs to take a break too. In fact, “Providing kids with the experience of travel broadens their horizons and opens up their minds to learning,” says Dr. William Norman. New sights and experiences generate new perspectives and concepts which then need new words and phrases to represent those ideas. Furthermore, travel presents a multitude of opportunities to use language for planning, problem solving, compromise, and flexibility. Turns out that taking a trip is a language stimulation goldmine!

With that in mind, try some of these talking points to stimulate your child’s receptive and expressive language development as you embark on new adventures together.

  1. Where are you going? This is a great time to use the vocabulary of places and introduce words such as lakes, mountains, towns, or even other countries. Talk about the similarities and differences between related things such as a lake and pond, a river and stream, or a town and city. This will help your child better understand each one of these words individually while also linking them together. 
  1. How will you get there? Use a map to show your child how you will be getting to your vacation destination. A map will also provide a visual support for all the new words you can introduce, such as highway, ferry, North, and South. The words that are new to them will become meaningful along the way as they experience these things first hand!
  1. What will you bring? Ask your child to help you brainstorm all of the things you need to bring and then check them off as they get packed—this way, if they didn’t know the name of the item during the brainstorming, now they get another chance to hear it or use it. This is a great way to work on associations or vocabulary related to travel, such as suitcase, tent, or passports.  These are words we may not use unless we are traveling. Writing lists together is a great early literacy activity as they begin to associate spoken words with their written form. If possible, put simple drawings or pictures beside the words to make it all the more meaningful.
  1. What will you do? Talk with your child about what types of activities you might do on vacation. “We are going to the beach! Maybe we can make a sandcastle or look for seashells.” See if your child can suggest some ideas too. Describing the activities that you plan to partake in on vacation will help your child anticipate what to expect. Then, once they get there and start living the experience, it won’t be the first time that they are hearing the new vocabulary. Instead, they will be making a direct association to the new words that have already been introduced!
  1. Play language games in the car. There’s nothing better to pass the time on a long drive than classic car games! Luckily, so many of them are language based—it's like holding a language class in your car to a captive audience! A few favorites include taking turns naming things in a group - the last one who can name something from that group wins. Or story telling where one person starts a story and each person has to keep adding to it. And don’t forget the clue game where one person gives clues about something in their mind (i.e.  “I’m thinking of something that lives in the ocean, has a shell and moves slowly”) and the others try to guess what it is. Sometimes the best car games are the ones you make up yourselves but if you need more inspiration try checking out these 12 Speech Therapy Activities for Travelling.
  1. Vacation photos. After a big experience like a vacation, your child will likely be talking about the memories you created for years to come. Luckily, it's easy to take photos and later scroll through them on your devices as you reminisce on all the good times you had together. Or, you may go as far as printing the photos off to create a holiday album that your child can reach for, and talk about, anytime. These photos will be forever cherished but will also be the basis for reflection, recall and conversation. Reflection is when some of the deepest connections are made with regards to linking experiences with new concepts and language. Recall is a great way to strengthen memory skills and, of course, bask in the joys of conversational language as you and your child talk about the your photos. It doesn’t get any better than that when it comes to an expressive language activity!

As we move through our summer blog series, it is becoming apparent that every experience we have with our children is an opportunity for increasing their language skills—it just takes a little bit of planning and know-how. A lot of parents become concerned that their children will not be learning as much over the summer months. But the reality is that this is one of the most opportune moments to develop your child’s language skills. Children are more physically active during the summer months which means their brains are optimized for learning. (See our 5 Tips to Get Your Child’s Language into Full Swing blog post to explore the link between physical activity and language development). Moreover, summer vacation provides a whole new perspective which stimulates cognitive growth in your child’s brain. So, take this opportunity to promote language development while planning your next vacation. The language opportunities before, during, and after your vacation are abundant—so don’t miss out while you're out and about!

Have you noticed a spike in your child’s language development after your family vacation? We’d love to hear about your experience—please comment below!

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