Who says cleaning can’t be exciting?! In this post you will learn how to support your child’s language, motor, and sensory development by using toy cars, shaving cream, a bucket/bowl of water, and a towel.
It’s time to take our cars to the wash! Please grab out a variety of toy cars (different colors and sizes are preferred), a bucket/bowl, water, shaving cream and grab a seat at a table that you can most easily wipe down. Line your cars up on the table and set up the shaving cream for your cars to get sudsy! Have a bowl of water ready next to the shaving cream with a towel to the side.
SPEECH / LANGUAGE SKILLS
While playing at the car wash you can support your child’s speech production of velar (k, g) sounds by modeling the following words: k- “car, clean, climb, cover, crash, can, cool”, g- “ go, gas, give, get, good”. Please ask your speech therapist if they have ideas for additional visual and gestural cues for these target sounds.
Descriptive phrases can be instructed “oooh it’s wet, the water is cold, the water’s hot, put the little car in, wow that was a big splash, the soap feels fluffy, the soap (shaving cream) is soft, lets dry our cars off”. Early concepts can be talked about such as describing the color of the car or asking “what color car is up next? You can discuss quantitative concepts including counting, few, none, one, many, most, more, less, least. Asking your child, “which cars are the same and which ones are different”, are additional examples of supporting early concepts. You can take notice if your water bowl is full of cars or empty which assists with teaching qualitative concepts. “Throw your car in, take two cars out, put the soap under the car, jump up car, go down down down”, are examples of using spatial concepts in this activity. In order to start putting together sentences, it is imperative that we learn and use many action words. Here are ways that you could use action words (verbs) during the car wash, “dump the water, drop the car in, splash the car, big flip, scrub it, wash the wheels, jump out”.
SOCIAL / PLAY SKILLS
The car wash can be a fun group activity. Social play skills such as turn taking and waiting in line for the car wash could be instructed. You can take turns putting the suds (shaving cream) on the car, take turns jumping in, and also take turns drying the cars off. You could have the whole group jump in the water bowl at the same time and the team can work together towards a common goal- getting all the cars clean. This supports associative play skills. The shaving cream symbolizes soap and or could symbolize snow or mud on the road. This is a great opportunity for imaginary play. You could pretend all the cars are going to the swimming pool, taking a bath, going to school, driving on the road. The cars could make shapes and designs on the road with the shaving cream.
From the motor perspective, there are so many great ways to promote the skills of gross motor postural stability and balance, and fine motor manipulation, dexterity, and bilateral coordination skills.
Gross Motor: The best way to target gross motor skills in this activity is to have the child sit, kneel, or stand in different positions throughout the activity. Have them standing at the edge of a table, challenge them to balance on one foot when they are rubbing on shaving cream, then switch to the other foot when they are rinsing it clean. Next, have them tall kneel next to a small table – this position really challenges core strength and stability. If you are doing this activity outside, try having them lay in the grass on their stomach. This positon also emphasizes core strength and is an extra challenge when incorporating reaching for the cars and reaching to dunk in the water.
Fine Motor: Encourage finger isolation (pointing the index finger) to rub shaving cream on the cars. Have them stabilize or hold the car with one hand and rub shaving cream on with the other to target bilateral coordination skills. Flipping cars over, spinning them around, making them jump and splash into the shaving cream are all great actions to target manipulation and dexterity skills.
Bonus Skill – Visual Motor: When the child uses their vision to locate areas of the car that don’t have shaving cream yet, then is able to target that area with a motor plan and apply shaving cream to the correct spot, that is visual motor! You can target this by washing the cars, but you can also target this by drawing shapes in shaving cream on that table! Draw a straight line and ask the child to copy you. Up the challenge by drawing more complex shapes. If they are unable to imitate basic lines or shapes yet, provide hand-over-hand support and draw them together!
When it comes to sensory exposure, this car wash activity is a great way to encourage your child to get messy! The tactile input provided by the shaving cream and can be applied to the hands, up the arms, or even dotted on the face is great for sensory processing and increasing the tolerance of different sensory stimuli. Model different exploration behaviors with the shaving cream for the child and let them explore at their own pace. Always keep a towel nearby and allow them to wipe off or wash their hands anytime they want!
In addition to the shaving cream, the different textures of the cars is a great way to increase tactile exposure. Touch the smooth edges and the bumpy tires and try to incorporate many different types of cars with different sizes and edges!
Most importantly, have fun with this activity! Play with your child and model all the different skills we mentioned above and encourage them to try them out at their own pace! Stay tuned for more skill breakdown blog posts with other activities soon!