You spend so much time and effort waiting for those first precious words… and now you can’t get your little listener to stop chatting! As important as it is to talk, talk, talk with your child and give them lots of good linguistic input, there are times (like a long boring wait at the doctor’s office, or standing in the checkout line at the grocery store) when some good quiet-time activities can come in handy. Here are a few quiet activities that I like because they also incorporate some great developmental skills… especially important because roughly 1/3 of children with hearing loss also have associated sensory processing, OT, or PT issues. These activities are designed to target multiple skills… but don’t tell that to your kids — they’ll just think they’re playing!
Buttons. This idea comes from one of the teachers at the Hearing School. Take a strip of fabric. Toward one end, sew on several buttons of various sizes, shapes, and textures. Toward the other end, cut out a few button-sized holes. Little ones can work on fine motor and self-care skills by buttoning and unbuttoning the fabric, matching up buttons and holes in endless combinations. The kids at the Hearing School call this, “Doing [their] buttons.” It reminds me of the story of “The Elves and the Shoemaker” to see them all sitting on their stools, hard at work on their buttoning skills!
Copy Cats. A great way to help children focus and quiet themselves is by challenging them to pay close attention to you and copy everything you do. For children with fine motor issues, you can do small hand movements, like pinching your thumb and various fingers together, or waving each finger in isolation. For children with large motor and/or vestibular issues, you can incorporate balancing, jumping, or stretching activities. For situations where a child must sit still for a long time, just placing your hands on the table and doing different small motions there can be enough to keep them occupied for quite a while during a long, boring wait!
Busy Box. When I was little, one of my favorite gifts I ever received was a Busy Box, a plastic shoebox-sized container full of craft supplies. Find a box and fill it with age-appropriate craft supplies — pipe cleaners, cotton balls, glue sticks, crayons, tape, construction paper, empty paper towel rolls, string, aluminum foil, beads, feathers, straws, clothes pins, tongue depressors, a small notepad, etc. etc. Anything you have around the house is instantly more exciting when it’s kept hidden away in a brightly-decorated “Busy Box” and only brought out on special occasions when boredom (and meltdowns) seem imminent!
Waiting Your Turn. Even in situations where it is okay for the child to be talkative, learning conversational turn-taking is a must for success in school and life. If your child interrupts, validate their speaking but correct their behavior with a response like, “Wait just one minute. I want to hear what you have to say, but I am talking to Mommy right now.” Teach the child to be observant of when others are talking and notice appropriate times to join in on conversations. “See? Daddy and Aunt Jo are talking to each other right now. Let’s wait until they’re finished to show them your balloon. Look, they’ve stopped talking. Go show it to them now!”
For older children… encourage writing practice and creative thinking skills by using different prompts like, “Write your favorite athlete a fan letter,” “Make a birthday card for Grandma,” “Draw a picture of what your dream bedroom would look like,” “Write a secret note for your brother and hide it under his pillow,” etc. Ask them to show you what they’ve written, and talk about it!