Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Using Pool Noodles to Support Speech and Language Development

Buon Giorno!! It's late morning on the train ride from Rome to Florence and with my coffee in hand and family in tow, I thought I would write some blog posts!! Just prior to the start of this fabulous, long getaway, I completed my second summer speech and language pool group session. This year, my participant size doubled from last summer with nine registered children between the ages of two and seven years old. Once again, I was surrounded by smiling faces and lots of gestures and vocalizations with a side order of splashing.

This group has been a passion of mine from early on in my career and despite my best attempts at planning, I always stumble upon a creative idea during the group. A couple weeks into this year's session, I walked by a container of pool noodles at our facility and asked each child to pick a color. My intent was to help position participants on their bellies for some kicking and splashing during our opening "wake up" routine of Motor Boat, but the noodle served an even greater benefit for many little ones and their caregivers.

Keeping Roaming Nomads close to Caregivers
While most children stay close to their caregivers, some enjoy exploring throughout the group. Having had a toddler who NEVER stayed with me during mommy and me group times, I understand the need for those "motivated to move" in order to fully attend. Given that the majority of my participants were working on generalizing skills into group settings and socializing with peers, I didn't want to allow for constant escape from social opportunities to play in the water alone. That's where the pool noodle came in quite handy! Caregivers wrapped the noodle around their child and then positioned themselves directly behind little ones. I'm no expert, but this arrangement may have given my little swimmers a better sense of where their bodies were in space which reduced the need to move. The most active children ceased movement and appeared content, not restrained. Those who remained near caregivers without the noodle, protested having it wrapped around them for the entire 30-40 minute group, so we simply put the noodle aside for them.

Body Wake-Up with Increased Water Resistance
After a couple quick rounds of Motor Boat go so slow/fast, I typically extended some body wake-up time with the song: The Wheels on the Bus. I really like this song for three reasons. First, just about everyone knows the words to it. Second, kids DELIGHT in being lifted up and down in the water when we sing about the windows and kids on the bus. Third, there are several opportunities for using water resistance to stimulate attention and alert our muscles. In all honestly, I happen to use the pool noodle while singing this song by accident when I realized it increased water resistance. Everyone loved swishing the noodle underwater to make waves during the sequence about the wipers on the bus and it was fun trying to motor plan using the noodle ends to spin like the wheels on the bus. With all this water resistance, our bodies were alert and we were ready to make some noise!

Pretend Play
Originally, I worried that having a noodle handy throughout the group would lead to children hitting others with them while swinging them around. Thankfully, I didn't see anyone start this particular trend. What I hadn't intended was that I could use the noodle for symbolic play. Once again, during the Wheels on the Bus song, I curved my noodle and positioned it into an arch over my head to pretend it was a building in a town. I encouraged others to imitate this new action by building their own homes in our town and the crowd loved it. I yelled out greetings to Mason in his town and Riley in hers and children responded to hearing their names by looking and attending. It occurred to me while writing this post that I could have used the noodle as a log during the song about the frogs that sit on a log and then jump into a pool or maybe made the noodle into a bridge for children to circle "under" during the motor boat song. Oh well, there's always next summer!

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