Communication in the Community

Guest Authored By Grace Kerrigan, MS, CF-SLP

As the snow melts away and the weather warms, the start of Spring brings new opportunities for experiences out in the community.  While this change of pace is exciting, exploring new places can be an overwhelming task, both for your child and your family.  To create happy and meaningful memories for your entire family, it is helpful to be prepared when embarking on new adventures.  By doing so, you can facilitate communication with your child within these new experiences, while creating fun memories to last a lifetime!   

When choosing a family fun spring time activity, the first step is to think about what works best for you and your family.  You know your child best!  Finding an activity that will suit their interests, sensory needs, and your family’s schedule will be important when creating a fun, stress-free environment.  Here are some fun and easy Chicago springtime ideas:  

Lincoln Park Zoo: Play Days at the Farm 

  • When: Every Tuesday and Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to noon  
  • How much?: Free!  No registration needed.  
  • What is it?: Children ages 1-5 are invited to join Lincoln Park Zoo Play Assistants to participate in hands-on nature activities.  Activities include sifting and scooping through a sensory bin, getting messy at the art station, and listening to a story at story time.  
  • HELPFUL HINT: Lincoln Park Zoo offers free sensory bags for check-out at the Information Center (located in Klover Lion House).  Stop by to pick up a bag that includes noise-reducing headphones, a lighted magnifying glass, fidget toys, a wobble cushion, and tinted glasses! 
  • SLP Tip: While on your trip to the zoo, you can engage your child in meaningful communication by commenting on what you see!  Provide models using an “I see” sentence starter, encouraging them to comment on their environment by asking what they see as well!  For our AAC users, this is a great opportunity to explore vocabulary pages that are not used as frequently in the day-to-day.  Have fun talking about the animals or even imitating the sounds they make!

The Field Museum: Sensory Saturdays  

  • When: Saturday, 9 a.m.-10 a.m.  Check the website for the next scheduled Sensory Saturday!  
  • How much?: Free with museum admission  
  • What is it?: Located in the Crown Family PlayLab, Sensory Saturdays offer a morning of activities geared toward children of all ages with varying abilities and sensory needs.  Families have fun participating in hands-on exploration activities, including experiencing different cultures through music or becoming a paleontologist while sifting through dinosaur bones! 
  • HELPFUL HINT: Space is limited to 40 guests to allow families to enjoy a crowd-free space.  Register in advance to save your spot! 
  • SLP Tip: Participating in small group, kid-friendly events allow for the perfect opportunity to practice peer interactions!  Help your child engage with other children by practicing greetings, asking to play, or taking turns.  To prepare your child for these interactions, practice by doing a “trial run” at home or on your way to the event.  Talking and practicing these interactions in a safe space will help your child feel ready and confident in the moment!

The GreenCity Market: Club Sprouts  

  • When: Outdoor tents every Wednesday and Saturday from 8 a.m.-12 p.m., select Thursdays from 4-8 p.m., and indoors on Saturdays from 8-12 p.m.   
  • How much?: Free! 
  • What is it?: Club Sprouts is a kid-friendly program that encourages children to try new and locally grown foods.  Children receive a membership card, earning stamps with each new taste.  Eight new tastes lead to a certificate of accomplishment and a special prize!  In addition, participate in fun, seasonal activities including arts and crafts, scavenger hunts, and hands on recipes!  
  • HELPFUL HINT: Location changes throughout the year.  Check the website to find the location most convenient for you!  
  • SLP Tip: Trying new foods can be a stressful experience, both for your child and you. Turn this experience from stressful to fun by adding a playful twist! If your child is not ready to taste a new food, try other ways to explore new foods without the pressure.  Have fun exploring the food by touching it, smelling it, or giving it a kiss.  Don’t be afraid to get messy!  Playing with new foods is a great way to explore new smells and textures without creating a negative experience for your child.