Early Learning

Virtual Family Place Playgroup: Speech, Language and Hearing

During our virtual Family Place Playgroups, you will learn ways to spark learning and play at home with common household ingredients.

On March 3, 2021 Plano Public Library hosted the Family Place Playgroup: Speech, Language and Hearing, a virtual workshop on Zoom featuring a hands-on activity, shared songs and rhymes, and questions and answers with child development experts in our community. In this blog post, you’ll find a recording of our activity, along with additional resources to help answer your questions.

Activity: Homemade Sand

Playing with sand gives your child many opportunities to explore writing, building and creativity. It also lets you introduce early science, engineering and math skills while helping your child engage many senses in learning. Using some simple ingredients, you can make your own sand at home.


Below is what you will need to participate in this activity:

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 5 cups flour
  • Mixing bowl
  • Wooden spoon
  1. Put your flour into a large bowl or container.
  2. Make a well in the middle of the flour.
  3. Pour the vegetable oil into the well.
  4. Mix the oil and flour together with a spoon. As the mixture starts to take shape, you may want to switch to mixing with your hands. This can help create a better texture with fewer lumps.
  5. Transfer the sand to a box or tray for play.
Review and Extensions
  • Practice manipulating the sand to make different shapes, designs, and letters. Encourage your child to practice writing, and show them how easy it is to wipe their sand surface clear again if they make a mistake.
  • Practice pouring, scooping and transferring sand. This helps build your child’s fine motor skills, but also lets you introduce math concepts and vocabulary.
  • Use different tools as you play with sand. What happens when you scoop sand with a shovel or a spoon? What happens when you pick up sand with your hands? Talk about different tools and how they work.

You can experiment with different sand recipes. Using different types of flour or even cornmeal will give your sand a different texture. Try adding salt to create a grainy sand, or color your sand by adding a little food coloring.

Ask the Expert

Each playgroup session includes a featured guest from our community. For this session, we were joined by Paige Burkink with the UTD Callier Center for Communication Disorders. She shared information about the Talking with Toddlers group therapy program and ways to incorporate language into your day.

Here are some of the questions we talked about:

Question: How do I know what sounds my child should be making at each age?

Answer: By age two, we want parents to understand 50% of what children say. You are with them every single day and know their language. By age three, you want to understand 75% of their speech, and by age four, you want to understand everything. It’s just a little bit less for strangers: 25% to 50% by age two, 50% by age three, and 75% or greater at age four.

Question: If you’re raising a child in a bilingual household, do the sounds ever get confused?

Answer: Yes, all the time! That is very typical. Because kids are learning double the language, they have double the words to use. Sounds might get switched up a bit, or they might use one word in Spanish and another in English. That is completely fine.

Question: What should we start first, sounds or numbers?

Answer: You can start adding number to everyday activities. Count different things or talk about numbers when you’re folding laundry. Work on counting different things first versus looking at the number one and saying, “This is one” or looking at the written number two and identifying the letter.

Do you have other questions? Be sure to reach out to our community resource professional for more assistance. You can learn more about the UTD Callier Center on their website, or contact them at (972) 883-3630.

Continue Learning

Explore some of these books from our collection:

The Amazing Dirt Book by Paulette Bourgeois Request
Examines the wonders of dirt, where it appears, what life it contains, and how it can be used. Includes activities such as making a sand sculpture, a mud cake, and a hydroponic garden.

A Little Bit of Dirt: 55+ Science and Art Activities to Reconnect Children with Nature by Asia Citro Request
Whether you’re investigating the health of your local stream, making beautiful acrylic sunprints with leaves and flowers, running an experiment with your backyard birds, or concocting nature potions, you’ll be fostering an important connection with nature. The engaging activities encourage the use of the senses and imagination and are perfect for all ages. Discover more about the natural world waiting just outside your door!

Born to Be Wild: Hundreds of Free Nature Activities for Families by Hattie Garlick Request
Organized seasonally and then by material, it lets parents skip straight to Spring and then to ‘Blossom’, ‘Grass’ or ‘Earth’ etc. according to their present need. Everything you need to engage in and create all of its hundreds of activities can be found in your kitchen cupboard. No expensive art supplies or outward-bound kit required. 

Nature Play at Home: Creating Outdoor Spaces That Connect Children with the Natural World by Nancy Striniste Request
With hundreds of inspiring ideas and illustrated, step-by-step projects, this hardworking book details how to create playspaces that use natural materials — like logs, boulders, sand, water, and plants of all kinds. Projects include hillside slides, seating circles, sand pits, and more.

For more information and resources, be sure to download the session handout. You can find more about our upcoming programs by visiting our programming calendar or by signing up for our newsletter.

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