Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Babbles and Bubbles: How Bubbles Help Your Child Learn Language

Hands down, bubbles are my favorite speech therapy toy.  There's just something magical about their ability to entice a little one to communicate. They shimmer and shine, appear and disappear, float away and pop at random, tempting even the most grumpy child into smiles and laughter.  And since engaging children in activities they love is the first step to working on communication, bubbles can be a beautiful bridge to language. 

Before I explain how the bubble magic unfolds, though, I'll share my favorite bubble recipe.  It's one I found back when I was eleven years old and spent hours upon hours perfecting HUGE bubbles, made with a spectacular bubble wand.  To this day, I use the recipe I found back then,  because I still haven't found one that works better. Plus, it's easy!
  • One cup Dawn dish soap
  • Ten cups water
  • 2-3 tablespoons glycerin (found at a local pharmacy)
That's it.  Makes the perfect bubble every time.

So then, what's all this about bubble magic?
  • Bubbles are a great activity for getting some first words going, because you can use lots of "b" and "p" sounds, These speech sounds are easy for children to imitate because they can see exactly what your lips do when you make the sounds. Obviously, the word "bubble" is full of "b" sounds; "pop" is another great word to model as you play, so is "up" as the bubbles go up up up into the air, and "bye" as the bubbles float away in the wind.
  • Because bubbles are hard for young children to blow themselves, they are a perfect communication temptation.  To use bubbles as a communication temptation, blow them for a while, and have some fun. Then put the cap on the bubble jar and wait, looking expectantly at your child. Or, catch the bubble on the wand, hold it up high, and wait. Or look like you are about to blow a bubble and wait. It is during the wait that your little one is most likely to communicate, either through a sound, a gesture, or a word. When she does, build on her communication by modeling back something a bit more complex than what she did, and then give her what she wants. 
  • You can also use my favorite three magic words: Say "Ready, Set, Go!" right before blowing the bubbles. Do this repeatedly, without any expectation of a response. Then, one time, say "Ready, Set...." and wait; the word "go" will often fall right out of your little one's mouth.
  • You can be silly with bubbles! Children love silly, and you can pair your silly actions with words to increase the chances that your child will imitate. When I am blowing bubbles, they often pop right into my face (sometimes by accident, sometimes by design) and I have to wipe them off with an exaggerated "uck!"  I also squash bubbles with my hands and stomp on bubbles with great delight, saying "pop" as I go, wave "bye bye," as the bubbles float off into the distance, and diiiiiiiip the wand into the bubbles.
  • Playing with bubbles is a great time to model action and description words to increase your child's language. Action words are easily woven into the activity as you open the bubbles, blow the bubbles, and pop the bubbles; simple and early developing concepts are present too, as you blow big and little bubbles, as the bubbles go up and down, the wand goes in and out of the bubble jar, and as things get wet when the bubbles pop (or spill!), so you have to get a towel to dry them off again.  These verbs and concepts can be worked on at the single world level at first, and then integrated into two word phrases as your little one's language develops. 
  • Best of all, it's hard not to smile while watching your little one enjoy the beauty of bubbles. And smiling is good for everyone. :)