Speech Practice During Back-to-School Time

Written by: Tara Gray, M.A., CCC-SLP

Speech-Language Pathologist

Back-to-school we go! It’s that time of year again: backpacks, lunch bags, new clothes, school supplies, “meet the teacher,” making friends, different classrooms, and new schools. Back-to-school time is a time of changes and chaos. With all that, how can we make time to keep up with speech practice?

Well, first things first, it’s okay to take it easy during these busier times. Especially until you get back into the school schedule and establish a routine. Then, we can find little times during our days to squeeze in some speech practice. It’s important to remember that speech practice doesn’t need to be an hour (or even 30 minutes) of sitting at a table working through drill sheets. In fact, it’s more beneficial to practice in shorter bursts, more often throughout the day, in a variety of locations and, if possible, with a variety of people! Spending 5 minutes in the mornings and/or 5 minutes in the evenings can make a huge difference in your child’s speech progress.

Tips for practicing speech while getting back-to-school:

  1. My number one tip is to make it fun! The more fun your child is having, the less struggle it will be. Turn it into a game. Practice during a fun and silly activity. It will make the practice easier for both you and your child.
  2. Practice in the car school drop-off line or following pickup time. Try to have your child find things during the drive that have their sound in them. If they’re working on R: red light, car, girl, road, Bank of America, roses, etc. If that’s too difficult for them, have them say a word you provide and then let them provide a word for you to practice in return. Kids love a chance to be “in charge” of adults!
  3. Work on a target list from your SLP while playing at the park to get some energy out after school. Practice sounds during tag when you get caught, each time you get a push on the swing, or to be released on the slide. 
  4. Encourage your child to show off their newly learned sound with other family or friends. This is a great way to encourage your child to use their sounds in a variety of contexts and with more listeners than just your and their SLP.
  5. Target sounds while reading a book before bedtime. Play “I Spy” with the pictures in the book and take turns finding and naming potential target words.
  6. Engage your child while cooking/preparing/cleaning up dinner and model target words that pop up in the recipe or around the kitchen. Have them imitate each word five times and then participate in that aspect of the cooking/cleaning. If they’re working on K: kitchen, cookie, clean it, bake, box, carrot, making, shake it, etc.
  7. Play pretend with your child and emphasize the production of their sound as it occurs in naming toys and pretend play dialogue. Ask them questions that will encourage them to answer with their target sound. Ask their pretend play character to make you a soup or present with only toys with their target sound. If they’re working on S: prince, princess, soup, scoop, Superman, ice cream, sand, cats, etc.
  8. Use morning and evening toothbrushing time to your advantage. Having the mirror in front of you both in the bathroom can be especially helpful for sounds like TH, S, Z, F, V, and M because it provides your child with immediate visual feedback for their production of the sound. Set a timer and practice the sound for a couple of minutes like this before heading off to school or going to bed.

Again, the most important thing to remember is to keep practice fun. Short and enjoyable practice is going to be the most sustainable for you and your child. Sustainable, consistent practice is what will help your child achieve their speech goals.

Finally, if you find yourself unsure of what words to practice with your child or how best to engage them, talk to your Small Talk SLP directly. We are happy to help! If you just need help thinking of words with your child’s sound in them, the website, Mommy Speech Therapy, is an excellent resource with free downloads available.

We hope all of our Small Talk friends grow, learn, and have an enjoyable time this school year!