Summer Time and the Talking is Easy – 3 Fun Ways to Build Language Outdoors

Would you believe it – Summer is here at last! Have a break from those therapy worksheets and make that leap into the great outdoors. Being outside stimulates interest and develops curiosity, both of which give children a major reason to communicate. Here are three ideas which most children under the age of 8 will enjoy. If you work in a nursery, why not try these activities with a group of children.

Bug Hunts


“A – hunting we will go, A – hunting we will go, we’ll catch a bug and put him in a box and then we’ll let him go!”

Curious about creepy crawlies? The best thing about a bug hunt is that it can be an ongoing activity that lasts a week – or more. All you really need for a bug hunt is a child and an insect. To make your experience even more of an adventure, take along some magnifying glasses. Children as young as two years old can enjoy going on a bug hunt and may even remember some of the scientific words that they learn along the way.



  • Make a mini-beast habitat a permanent feature in your garden; this could simply be a wood or leaf pile, a log, or a section of uncut grass. If you want to get technical and make a mini-beast mansion, there are loads of ideas online to get you started. Who knows, it could bring out the budding entomologist in your kids – and in you!

Language Tips –

  • Tell your child the names of all the mini-beasts you find, say the name a few times so that your child has lots of opportunities to copy what you are saying and remember the word.
  • Describe what the insect looks like e.g. it has spiky legs, it has a black, shiny shell, it’s slimy and green.
  • Expand your child’s language by adding action words e.g. the spider is running, the caterpillar is munching, the woodlice are scuttling.
  • To encourage higher level vocabulary use words such as; search, predator, camouflage, magnify, discover, underneath, beside.
  • Ask questions like “where does it live?”, “what does it like to eat?”, “why is it hiding?” “how does it make that sound?”.


Listening Walks


The ability to look and listen is central to all learning and forms the foundation for the development of language. It is particularly relevant to language learning as many children with communication difficulties have poor looking and listening skills. Children need to be able to focus their attention and tune out background noise; an essential prerequisite skill if a child is to benefit fully from the learning environments of home, nursery or school and successfully socialise with others.

So…… “Put on your socks and shoes – and don’t forget your ears! We’re going on a listening walk. Shhhhhh. Do not talk. Do not hurry. Get ready to fill your ears with a world of wonderful and surprising sounds.” The Listening Walk – by Paul Showers.


  • Why not visit woodland, a park, a town, the seaside, a farm, the countryside or just sit outside your front door. Try going to a different place each week and listen to how the sounds differ from place to place.
  • Help your child listen and identify what they can hear. You could hear traffic sounds, birds, bees, children playing and laughing, cows, crunching stones underfoot, the list is endless.
  • Copy the sounds you hear.
  • Children love to record sounds and play them back later. This is a way of extending the game and encouraging them to listen all over again. They’ll enjoy listening to their own voice and guessing who else they can hear.
  • Match the sounds to pictures.
  • Make a listening ears headband; stick or velcro two big paper ears onto a paper band or sunhat.

Language tips –

  • Encourage the children to describe sounds e.g. quiet, loud, rustling, screeching, squelching, crunching. If they do not have the vocabulary, you can say the words for them.


Mud Castles


I’m in love with mud,
It’s sad, I know, but true.
I just can’t help but splash in it,
Or stomp a path right through.

It’s sticky and it’s dirty,
And it covers all my clothes.
But when I see it lying there,
A voice inside me grows…

…You can’t resist, you know I’m right,
It’s fun to play in mud!
Look at it just sitting there,
I really think you should!

I splatter in the grimy gloop,
I can’t resist the ooze!
I run, I jump, I stamp about,
It drips into my shoes!

I’m in Love With Mud – Gareth Lancaster 2003

We all know that children love to play in the mud and we all know that they love listening to magical stories. So why not create your own muddy, mystical world by combining the two – build a mud castle. Building a mud castle is not as easy as it first appears to be. It requires a lot of creativity, perseverance and most importantly, concentration and imagination – important skills that we want to nurture in our children. These skills are also vital for the development of language and communication. Who might live in the castle? What goes on inside the castle? If we look through the windows, what might we see? What happens to the castle at night time? I wonder what we could use to decorate the castle? (If you go to the beach, use these types of questions when you are building your sandcastles).

For younger children and those with special needs, the sensory experience of exploring the mud is enough to spark off a variety of non verbal communications; smiles, giggles, wide eyes, scrunched up little faces, interesting noises. How could we miss out on all of this? Clean dirt, water and a little imagination is all you need to get started.



  • You could start with buckets and spades like you would a sandcastle.
  • Get your hands and feet in there.
  • If you don’t want to ruin a grassy area, use a large tray to put the mud onto.
  • Sculpt interesting shapes onto your castle with your hands.
  • Decorate using natural materials such as leaves, stones, twigs, grass, shells, pinecones, flowers.
  • Use some of your child’s plastic toys to create characters and a setting for the castle e.g. the king and queen, the evil fairy, animals in the field next to the castle, a crocodile or dragon in the moat.
  • Make castles from sand, Lego, blocks, recycled materials, blankets and pegs.

Language Tips –

  • Keep your language at the same level as the child’s. e.g. if your child is only just learning to use single words, then use single words to label objects (nouns) and actions (verbs) e.g. pat, squish, mud, leaf, water etc. If your child has a lot of single words, expand their language by adding a word onto what they say e.g. your child says “mud”, you could say “squishy mud” or “muddy hands” depending on what context your child meant the word ‘mud’. If your child is using higher level language some of the questions above may be appropriate to ask.
  • Decorating mud castles are a great way to reinforce prepositions – in, on, under, next to, between, in front, behind. Use words like this if your child is already talking in sentences. E.g. the shell is on the castle door, the dragon is under the castle, the trees are next to the castle, the princess is in front of the castle, the horse is behind the castle.
  • Encourage the use of alliteration – e.g. messy, mucky, mud……squelching, sticking, slopping……gooey, gunky, gungey.


So, there you go, three exciting activities to get that lovely language flowing.

Have Fun!!