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Pure Friendship for Individuals with Special Needs
Becca Eisenberg

5 Ways to Facilitate Language at the Beach or Lake

Going to the beach or lake can be a daily or weekly occurrence over the summer for many families. Why not make beach time a rich language experience for your child with special needs? Here are five ways to encourage language at the beach or lakefront this summer:

1. Sand Play

With my own child, I have found sand play to be extremely beneficial in many ways. It is such a naturally rich sensory experience that many children can enjoy and benefit from. The act of digging, building and playing with the sand can be satisfying and calming for those seeking sensory input.

When engaging in sand play with your child:

  • Work on actions (e.g. build, dig, pat, etc.)
  • Discuss how the sand feels (e.g. wet, dry, yucky, hot, etc.)
  • Name the objects you are using for building (e.g. shovel, pail, etc.) to help build vocabulary
  • Discuss what you are making (e.g. sand castle, tunnel) and how you are going to achieve your goal (e.g. first we need to dig and then build). Building a sand structure can be ideal for sequencing, turn taking and problem solving.

2. Taking a Walk on the Beach

When taking a walk, point out what you see when you are walking on the beach. This can improve commenting (e.g. “I see a seagull”  “I found a seashell”). This activity can also help improve overall visual awareness, commenting skills (discuss the color, shape and feel of the shells) and help build vocabulary. Collect items from the beach and make a sensory box! Small rocks, sand, shells and other items found on the beach can be an ideal sensory box to have at home.

3. Having a picnic lunch

Having a snack or lunch at the beach is a natural time to have a conversation and discuss what you are eating. Ask questions and encourage your child to discuss their lunch if they like it, don’t like it, etc. There also might be some sand in their food which can definitely encourage commenting! Read a picture book when eating on the beach together. For picture recommendations, check out Gravity Bread.

4. Swimming

Swimming can also be very therapeutic in many ways. For many children, swimming in a lake or ocean can be exciting, soothing and relaxing all at the same time. When swimming with your child, comment if the water is cold or warm by modeling the correct language (e.g. “The water is so cold today!”, “The water is nice and warm today. It feels great!”). Discuss with your child what you might find in the ocean (e.g. fish, seaweed, shells). If you are at the beach, discuss the waves and ask your child to comment if they are big, small, rough, smooth, loud or quiet.

5. Have a playdate with a friend and practice social skills!

With the beaches being crowded, it can be a great opportunity to work on social skills with other children and adults. If you are visiting a public beach where you might not know many people, it can be a great opportunity to work on social skills (e.g. greetings, etc.) If you are visiting the beach or lake club that you visit often, use this time to build existing friendships.

Carryover Activities

Take pictures at the beach and before bedtime, show your child the pictures. Help recall the events of the day by discussing what you did at the beach. A great follow-up activity would be to write a short story or social story about the beach so your child can discuss it with other family members, friends, therapists, etc.

WRITTEN ON July 11, 2014 BY:

Becca Eisenberg