Having Fun at Home with Communication, Part I: Pets!

Do you have a cat, a dog, or even a pet rock? There are so many enjoyable ways to encourage your child’s communication development at home. One of those ways is playing with pets! Pets provide not only entertainment and companionship, but also communication opportunities. Speech and language can be worked on during everyday activities to increase your child’s ability to understand and clearly communicate their wants and needs.

Here are some communication skills paired with easy at-home ideas involving your pets:

  • Describing: I spy- but with animals! This one is perfect if you have multiple pets. I spy something barking, by the window, and has spots! I spy something with four legs, is on top of the shelf, and is eating a treat! Try to use a variety of clues such as color, shape, action, texture, size, number, and location.
  • Giving Directions: Learning new commands and practicing old ones can help little ones practice saying single words or help older children with explaining what they want their pet to do. With a parent’s guidance, maybe your poodle will learn to sit as your toddler learns to say a new word or produce a new sign. Here is the sign for “sit” in American Sign Language (ASL).
  • Sequencing: Talk about what your pet does throughout its day. Use sequencing words like first, before, after, and during. First, my dog wakes up in the morning with a big stretch. After that, he tippy taps across the room and waits for me to open the door to the bedroom. During our walks, he likes to sniff everything along the way. Before going to sleep, he turns around and around in his dog bed.
  • Story Telling: Many children enjoy seeing pictures of themselves and family members, especially those furry family members. Take pictures throughout your day and turn them into a book with a free app such as Story Creator. Maybe you would prefer to print them out, then draw or write on the pictures to help tell a story.
  • Answering Questions: Practicing answering questions can help your child feel confident when talking about their pet with others. You can practice questions such as:

“What kind of pet do you have?”

“What is your pet’s name?”

“What do you like to do with your pet?”

  • Writing: Make your pet the star of their own adventure. Encourage your child to write a story about their pet going on an adventure. Where would they go? What would they do? Who would they meet? Maybe your bunny will suddenly be hopping down fifth avenue or your cat will be meowing at the movies. The sillier, the better! Encourage your child to share their story or put on a play to act it out. For an older child, ask questions about their setting and characters. For younger children, try drawing a picture and writing a story together.

Try one idea or try them all! The whole family (pets included) can get involved in encouraging speech and language development. This is the first part in a three-part series of ways to have fun at home with communication. Look out for the next part in the series. Have fun!

Marissa Siegel

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