Thursday, February 21, 2013

February Features: Preschool Social Skills

Today I've asked Liz from SpeechLadyLiz to share with you! She's working in a clinic so social skills for the preschool crowd is part of her every day! 

I’ve been asked many times, “How do you work on pragmatics with preschoolers?”  It’s hard because you can’t be as direct as you can be with older children.  I work in a preschool and almost every single one of the children I work with has a pragmatic goal.  Along with that pragmatic goal there are always play goals.  So in my opinion, how do you work on pragmatics with preschoolers….play, play, play.  I recently had a conversation with another SLP who works in the schools.  She said the last thing I have time for is working on play.  Everyone around us was totally bored with our conversation or otherwise I might have flipped the table over and said “What???”  Play with preschoolers is probably the most important thing you can do.  What can you get from play you might ask? Narration, conversational turn-taking, following directions, commenting, initiating, asking questions, awareness, inhibition, attention and the list goes on and on.  I have the luxury of getting to see my kids for 4+ hours a week and 2 hours at a time, so I’m able to really bombard them with language related to our theme.  I figured I’d give you all a rundown on how I work on play and pragmatics with a specific theme. 

Playing With Baby Dolls

During circle time I like to go over the vocabulary and have each child repeat the vocabulary we are targeting that week.  Preschoolers=visuals, so I have this visual(freebie!) below to talk about all the things we can do with the targeted toy.  I also bring the toy into circle time and show them how to play with the toy properly.


Once we’ve practiced how to play with the toy in a more structured, facilitated environment, then we go to free play with the toy.  I have seen a lot of carryover of the skills taught into these play sessions.  The first time a child has a successful interaction with a peer and they see the importance of these interactions it's amazing! During the free play time I like it to be more controlled by me (I’m an SLP after all) and I do that by having a focused activity. 

Bathe the baby

I usually grab our sensory bins, some soap, a rubber ducky or two and a towel and let the kids go at it with baby bath time.  I purposefully only have one baby doll to use so that they have to take turns and work together to give the baby a bath.  This is also a wonderful opportunity to work on receptive language through identification of body parts and following directions.  Kids love to play with water plain and simple, so I generally hear a lot of spontaneous language during these types of activities.   

Diapering the baby

Warning: This activity gets pretty messy (but super fun!).  I have gotten over the whole, “Let’s keep my classroom spotless.” idea that used to inhabit my brain.  That is good with this activity, because baby powder gets everywhere (at least it smells good).  I let the kids go to town with the baby powder, lotion and wipes.  Let me tell you they love this activity (especially the boys).  Again this is a wonderful opportunity for turn-taking, team work, inhibition, receptive language etc. 

Some additional activities that are fun to do are painting with baby bottles.

Put paint in a baby bottle and then the kids can shake and squeeze to get the paint on the paper.
Make a sock baby.

All you need is a sock, ribbon, stuffing and sharpies.  This is a great take-home so kids can take it home and parents can help carryover those play skills at home.

Find those directions here.

What I’ve come to learn is you can’t force friendships with children just like you can’t as an adult.  So to help children understand the importance of friendships you have to create fun and engagement between them.  Pragmatics is one of the most important aspects of our job as an SLP.  We want our children to be social butterflies and have friends and successful social interactions.  Play is the way to get that start.  It’s not only a very important part of what we do, it’s an essential part of what we do.  It’s also pretty fun and entertaining too.

Check out my “How To Play With Cars” post here.