Thursday Therapy Thoughts: Sidewalk Chalk

Sidewalk Chalk:

Sidewalk chalk in the summer, one of the greatest childhood past times. Such a fun, inclusive and creative activity that engages children, and adults, with endless possibilities.

Listed below you will find some of our favorite language skills to target using sidewalk chalk in conjunction with some easy-to-follow activities.

  1. Using sidewalk chalk to make a requests:

Whether your little one is a talker or not, requests can be made in multiple ways. If your child is NOT a talker, having sidewalk chalk in eye sight or at an arms reach for your child, can help to promote opportunities for request through gestures (pointing, eye gaze). These simple gestures aimed at a single object allow you to fill in the blanks for your child. For example, as they point to or look at the item of interest (sidewalk chalk) help validate their attempts by saying, “Oh. You want the chalk? Let’s play with chalk!” If your child is a talker, you can expand upon language or target sounds through requesting. So, if a child sees and/or points to the object and says ‘chalk’ help them by giving them a model for increasing the number of words in their sentence. {Example: Let’s try that again, try saying: ‘I want the chalk’ or ‘can I have the chalk?’ or ‘can we play with chalk, please’}. The number of words expressed will depend upon their age and development.

  • Using sidewalk chalk to promote Yes or No responses:

Understanding language is a big part of communication that we cannot ignore. Allowing children the opportunity to practice responding to yes/no questions is a way for us to confirm that the child understands what we’re asking as well as understands how we’re going to use the toy/tool. So, asking your child, “Do you want to play with chalk?” gives them a chance to respond in a way that let’s you (as the parent) know whether or not this is something they want to do. If a child responds with, ‘yes’, you can further use yes/no questions to enforce knowledge of how to play with sidewalk chalk. Ask them:

  • Should I put the chalk on my head?
  • Should I eat the chalk?
  • Should I put the chalk in my pocket?
  • Should I put the chalk behind my back?
  • Should I draw with the chalk?

Appropriate responses gives you insight as to whether or not your child has a basic understanding of how these tools work and how they are intended to be used. If they answer incorrectly, it gives you a chance to teach them the appropriate response.

  • Using sidewalk chalk for functional skills, like: counting, shapes and colors:

We love any activity that helps to teach and promote basic skills, especially in young children. Sidewalk chalk is a fun and interactive way to help teach/affirm skills associated with colors, shapes and counting.

  • Colors: When a child is requesting sidewalk chalk, you can offer a choice to help bring awareness to color (especially for kids ages 2-5). Ask the child: “Do we need the blue or the yellow chalk?” When they make their choice, you can incorporate yes and no responses by holding up the blue chalk and asking them, ‘is THIS one the yellow chalk?’ No matter their response, reward them with validation by saying good job. If their answer is incorrect, give them an opportunity to try again.
  • Shapes: There are so many additional materials associated with sidewalk chalk, including stencils. Using stencils can promote the learning of different shapes and sizes. If children are learning/practicing their shapes, (YOU and) sidewalk chalk  + stencils can help. Lay out the stencils and have your child point to or name a shape that they would like to trace. You could also play a game to choose a stencil, depending on their language level/age; playing ‘I spy’ is perfect for this. Say, “I spy a shape with four sides and four corners”. You can also help children generalize application of shapes by allowing them to look for shapes outside in the yard or at the playground or inside your house. This type of scavenger hunt will help them understand that shapes can exist in lots of different places. Along with finding/naming shapes in different places, you can discuss BIG shapes and little shapes to incorporate the concept of size as well.
  • Counting: As you draw with the sidewalk chalk, you can also incorporate counting/numbers. Ask the child(ren), ‘how many pieces of chalk to we have?’, or ‘how many of these pieces are red?’. As you draw, you may also ask, ‘how many of {a chosen shape} should we draw?’
  • Using sidewalk chalk to practice a target sound:

If a child has a specific sound they are working to produce, sidewalk chalk can be a great tool to use to help target and practice these skill. As you are drawing with sidewalk chalk, the child can say/elicit the sound (ex. /s/) while coloring. The adult can withhold a certain color chalk or stencil so the child can request more, or practice saying sounds in a more targeted manner before resuming coloring activities. You can even draw the letter (ex. ‘s’) associated with the should and have the child practice eliciting the sound while jumping/walking on the letter.

  • Using sidewalk chalk to practice a target word/sign:

Similar to practicing target sounds, if a child is working to produce a sound at the word level, have them repeat/read words (3-5) before rewarding them with the chalk of their choice. If they’re practicing a sign (like ‘more’), after you give some chalk to color with, prompt the child by asking them, “Do you want more chalk? How can you show/ask me?” As the child gets more comfortable and consistent with using sign, prompts may be discontinued. You just have to give enough wait time for the request to be used.

  • Using sidewalk chalk to practice simple ‘wh’ questions:

Asking ‘wh’ questions is a great one-on-one or group activity that can be facilitated with the use of sidewalk chalk. As you work with colors, you can ask the child(ren), ‘who has the red sidewalk chalk? Yellow sidewalk chalk”’; or, ‘what else can you think of that is red? yellow? blue?’. You may also be able to ask, ‘where should we draw today?’ or, depending on the picture you’re drawing (example, a rainbow), you can ask, ‘where would you see a rainbow?’ When it is time to clean up, you can bring water and ask, ‘what will happen if we pour water on our chalk?’ or ‘why do we need the water?’

Using language in a play-based setting helps to facilitate language in a natural way allowing children the opportunity to use language instinctively.