Several months ago I popped into Tiger, a High Street shop, and picked up an ‘under the sea’ toy for Jasmine which I thought she might like someday soon. I forgot about it for ages until one day I was looking for something new to entertain her and I found it in the cupboard. Ever since, it’s been a firm favourite for her and this simple and very affordable magnetic fishing game comes with amazing and varied language development opportunities that I’d like to share with you today.
Jasmine is 15 months and currently she has very little interest in using the magnetic fishing rods other than to explore the magnets which is great fun! What she loves to do is to put each sea creature in the tin, here the clang, wait until the tin is full and tip them out again. She does this over and over and over again. This game keeps her so happy that I’ve even managed a sit down on the sofa with a hot cup of tea whilst she’s kept herself busy and as all us mums know, those moments are few and far between. However, as this game holds her attention so well, it’s a great time to sit down with her and do some talking.
At this age, children are starting to make stronger connections between the things they see, hear, touch and feel and the words that go with them. This is how they start to develop an understanding of words for example, that the green thing with a shell is a turtle and that the thing with 5 pointy bits is a star. Once a child understands words they can then start to say them too.
This fishing game is fantastic for introducing some key vocabulary and I’ve done this by naming the pieces Jasmine picks up to show me or put in the tin. As she does this on repeat, she’s probably heard all the words about 50 times which is really going to help her understand them. I’m mostly just using single words or short phrases at this stage to help her make those important links between what she sees and what she hears. Now if I ask her to find me the turtle or the crab, she can usually do it. Equally, she may choose to ignore me which is perfectly normal at this age too!
As Jasmine puts the pieces in the tin and tips them out again, I comment on where the pieces go, emphasising those key words for example, “in the tin,” “out the tin.” Sometimes these little sea creatures get lost so I can ask her ‘where’ questions such as, “where is the star?” This usually prompts her to start looking around for it and again I can repeat, “it’s in the tin,” or, “it’s under your leg!”
As language starts to develop, children are more likely to say nouns rather than action words as these are easier but they can certainly start to understand action words too. In this game we can introduce some simple verbs such as ‘swimming,’ ‘fishing,’ ‘catching’ and ‘tipping’ and these can be repeated throughout. Older children may also start to join their words into phrases and sentences such as, “I’m catching the turtle,” but as parents you can demonstrate these sentences too. You can also talk about colours by saying simple phrases like, “green turtle” or, “the crab is red.” You can also talk about whether the tin is empty or full or where the animals live…under the sea! This game also comes complete with a blue cloth to represent the sea.
As speech and language therapists we are often advising parents to make sure that their child has a reason and an opportunity to communicate with them. Parents are really good at knowing what their child wants and needs so often we provide things our children need without waiting for them to communicate with us. In this game, Jasmine can’t open the tin by herself so this gives her a reason to communicate with me, to ask for help. I make sure I wait for her to bring me the tin before I help her, providing the opportunity. It’s at this point I can match my language to interpret what it is she is trying to say. If she could, she’d probably say, “can you open the tin please, Mummy?” but being only 15 months, that would be a bit much! Instead I say, “Mummy open.” This not only lets Jasmine know I understand her but gives her the key vocabulary that she can use when she’s ready.
There are opportunities to develop children’s language all throughout the day. Whether it’s at snack time, play time or even out in the car, we can help our children develop their understanding and communication skills. What are the toys and activities your little ones are playing with the most? Let us know in the comments and we can blog about the language opportunities for those too!