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  • Writer's pictureBrittany M.

Five Language-Rich Spring Break Activities for Children to Explore in Chicago

As a pediatric speech pathologist, I often encourage parents to intertwine language and literacy development with everyday adventures. With Spring Break around the corner, Chicago offers a treasure trove of opportunities for families to engage in fun, functional activities that not only create lasting memories but also foster essential communication and reading skills in children. Let's explore five research-backed, speech pathologist-approved activities that can turn your Spring Break into a literacy-rich expedition.


1. Story Time at the Chicago Public Library

The Chicago Public Library hosts an array of child-friendly activities, with storytime sessions standing out as a prime opportunity for language enrichment. These sessions are not just about listening; they're interactive experiences that encourage children to think critically, predict outcomes, and engage in discussions about the story (Wasik & Iannone-Campbell, 2012). The vibrant illustrations and diverse narratives found in children's books can significantly enhance vocabulary and comprehension skills, setting a strong foundation for literacy development.

2. Nature Walks in the Chicago Botanic Garden

A stroll through the Chicago Botanic Garden can be a multisensory language-learning experience. Encouraging children to describe plants, ask questions, and follow directions during a scavenger hunt can significantly boost their expressive language skills (Radesky, J. S., Schumacher, J., & Zuckerman, B., 2015). Nature provides a unique context for introducing new vocabulary and concepts, making it an ideal setting for spontaneous, meaningful conversations.


3. Hands-on Learning at the Museum of Science and Industry

The Museum of Science and Industry offers hands-on exhibits that can spark curiosity and encourage language development through scientific inquiry and problem-solving. Engaging with interactive displays requires children to follow instructions, ask questions, and describe their observations, promoting critical thinking and sequence skills crucial for storytelling and narrative development (Toub, T. S., Hassinger-Das, B., Ilgaz, H., Weisberg, D. S., Hirsh-Pasek, K., & Golinkoff, R. M., 2018).



4. Exploring the Lincoln Park Zoo

A visit to the Lincoln Park Zoo can be transformed into an interactive language lesson. Discussing animals' habitats, diets, and behaviors can enhance a child's descriptive language and categorization skills, which are essential for language organization and retrieval (Zimmerman, F. J., Christakis, D. A., & Meltzoff, A. N., 2007). Creating narratives about the animals' daily lives can also foster imagination and storytelling abilities, crucial components of early literacy.


5. Creative Workshops at the Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago's family workshops offer a unique platform for language expansion through art. Discussing art pieces can facilitate higher-level thinking and language skills, such as making inferences, understanding perspectives, and using descriptive and emotive language (Eisner, E. W., 2002). These workshops allow children to express their thoughts and emotions, crucial for emotional literacy and communication skills development.


Chicago's rich cultural and natural resources provide a fertile ground for integrating language and literacy development into Spring Break adventures. By participating in these activities, you'll not only enrich your child's language and literacy skills but also create joyful memories that last a lifetime. Remember, the key to effective learning is engagement, so choose activities that resonate most with your child's interests and watch their language bloom this Spring Break.


Wasik, B. A., & Iannone-Campbell, C. (2012). Developing vocabulary through purposeful, strategic conversations. The Reading Teacher, 66(4), 321-332.


Radesky, J. S., Schumacher, J., & Zuckerman, B. (2015). Mobile and interactive media use by young children: The good, the bad, and the unknown. Pediatrics, 135(1), 1-3.


Toub, T. S., Hassinger-Das, B., Ilgaz, H., Weisberg, D. S., Hirsh-Pasek, K., & Golinkoff, R. M. (2018). The language of play: Developing preschool vocabulary through play following shared book-reading. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 45, 1-17.


Eisner, E. W. (2002). The arts and the creation of mind. Yale University Press.

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