It's a snow day. And we desperately needed snow. We have not had much snow here in north Idaho all winter. Though it has been great for commuting and walking and not having to dry kids' clothes everyday after school, I realize that we need snow to buildup the snowpack and spring runoff so that we don't have crazy wildfires this summer.

Outdoor activities are language-rich activities.

I had big plans today for getting kids off to daycare, reports written, meetings completed, and yoga done. When my husband came home from work an hour after he left, I knew productivity was out the window! We were all staying home together to enjoy the white stuff God blessed us with. As a mother with stuff to do, I had to really pull the reigns in this morning to let my to do list go and enjoy the moments of the day.

My kids are outside building snowmen, riding on sleds behind the four-wheeler, having snowball fights, and generally enjoying the winter that has been slow to ramp up this year. I am enjoying my coffee, watching from inside by the fire, and grabbing a moment to do something else I love... writing.

They will come in for breaks to warm up or dry off or get a cup of hot cocoa. I will ask them what they did or how they did it all by themselves. They will tell me all about it.


Here is the part where I work with them on language without them even knowing it and without me having to feel like I'm working. I ask them to tell me the story of what they did. I am looking for different qualities of story telling per child (for their age group). I expect my 2 year old to tell me a few mixed up sentences with the general idea. I expect my 6 year old to tell me the highlights, and when prompted, a full story with a beginning, middle, and end. I expect my 9 year old to tell me a complete and coherent sequence that makes sense (and they will probably tell it in that order without me having to repeat back to them the correct order).

That is the beautiful thing about children of different ages playing together. The younger kids feed off of the older kids to push their communication skills a little bit further. My 2 year old will hear her older brother expand on the few words she gave, but maybe with the most exciting parts only. Then they will both hear oldest brother give a full, sequential account.

This is but one way we can encourage language learning through play... story telling, recasting with all the parts, and peer modeling. So the motto for today is... GET OUT AND PLAY IN THE SNOW!

Lauren Tandy, M.S., CCC-SLP, is a speech language pathologist who specializes in pediatric intervention in the areas of early language development and feeding/swallowing disorders. She may be reached at

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