Friday, April 7, 2017

I love red lights - and why I think you should, too!

By Lauren Barnett, MA, CCC-SLP

red light picture for a blog post about using stop lights to work on communication skills

Do you dread stopping at another red light before you arrive at your destination? Do you feel like that time is just a waste? I sure did! They frustrated me like few things can!

But I would like to share with you what has gotten me to change my mind completely!

Can you see that cute smile in the back seat? I can't really focus on him while I'm driving (I probably have to explain weekly to my children why I need to be focused on driving and not looking at some interesting toy, paper or book in the back seat - while I'm driving!), but once that red light has me stopped...

Well, I can look right up into my baby-view mirror (that I've had since Big Sister was born more than 7 years ago!) and see what is going on.

The neat thing about the baby-view mirror is that I don't need to turn around to see. Plus, I can really see what is going on with his mouth and face. So if we are focusing on a specific sound or mouth movement, I can clearly see if he is doing it correctly (or not!) and give suggestions.

I discovered this joy many years ago and have used it in many different circumstances. I used that time to study flash cards when I was in graduate school. I've used this time to lesson plan.  Actually, now when I'm driving alone (which I do A LOT of since I am a traveling Speech Pathologist!), I can use red lights to jot down an idea that's popped into my head or make a note about something I need to do.

I'd like to share some ideas that you can do with your own children while you are driving to purposefully use those moments when you are stopped! Just a little disclaimer here: always be cautious when driving, even when you are stopped!

Babies/Toddlers (0-2 year olds)

Talk about the things you see around you. Remember to see things from their perspective!! Babies are likely looking out the back window and toddlers have the side head protectors on the carseats blocking their view! Big trucks and buses can easily be seen. Trees and some signs with pictures are good, too. I found that if I wanted to direct their attention to a specific side of the car, I'd roll that window down a little bit and then up again. That drew their eyes in the correct direction. Then I could say "look at that big bus! It has a cow painted on it!"

Preschoolers (3-5 year olds)

Continue to talk about the things that you see around you. They will be able to see more, so you'll be able to point out more things. "Look at that field! I see two horses!" This is also a good time to work on the skills that they are working on at school.  My son's school gives a monthly calendar with some "core knowledge content."  We also love to play I Spy. You've got to be quick, those lights don't stay red forever!!

This is also a good age to work on singing songs like Old McDonald, She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain and the ABC Song. Those can lead to discussions about categories of words (name all the animals you can think of!), rhyming words, letters and the sounds they represent, counting syllables in the words you say, planning out a sequence of events to tell what you'd do in a situation (if you've just finished singing She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain  you could talk about Aunt Andrea who's going to be visiting in two weeks and what you'll do when she arrives)

Elementary School (5-10 year olds)

Nothing beats eye contact when you are asking your child to answer a question! When I ask "how was your day?" while I'm driving (because I do talk to them while I'm driving, too...not just at the red lights!) the answers tend to be shorter and less personal. But if I ask it at a red light and Big Sister can see that I am looking at her, she will tell me more of the personal things that have happened at school and how she feels about what happened. It's a much deeper conversation when I'm looking at her. Plus, I can really see her emotions on her face and respond appropriately.

Big Sister just said "I like that it's easier for me to see you!" Excellent point! Mirrors work both ways, I can see them, but they can see me! I can make great facial expressions or whatever and she can see me.

If Your Child is in Speech (any age)

This is a great time to practice whatever sound they are currently addressing in therapy! You can use the baby-view mirror so you can distinctly see if they are moving their tongues or lips in the right way. And you can make it fun, too! You can try to see how many times they can say their sound correctly before the light turns. And I know that kids love it when they see their parents practicing, too!

Now, I know that there are many families who play DVDs in the car while they drive, but I would like you to reconsider for at least part of your driving experience. This is quality time with your child that you can use to develop them verbally, academically, socially and spiritually. Nothing beats a parent talking to their child!

Do you think you could learn to love red lights, too? When you embrace the pause, there's so much you can do!

Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Please know that I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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