When working with toddlers and preschool aged children I always like to incorporate toys and games into my therapy. Child centered therapy such as this uses natural context and events to facilitate speech and language development. This play-based therapy is especially beneficial in maintaining the child’s interest and targeting speech and language goals without it being explicitly demanding. Play based therapy has been proven to help engage a child, maintain interest and can be effective in targeting speech and language objectives without the child even realizing it.
Here is a list of some of my favorite toys I use in my therapy sessions to encourage speech and language development:
Mr. Potato Head
Mr. Potato Head is one of the most versatile toys that can be used for language stimulation. Mr. Potato head can be used to promote expressive vocabulary in terms of nouns (hat, eye, ears, nose, shoes), action words (push, put on) and requests (give me, more, my turn). Mr. Potato Head also provides opportunities to increase comprehension and answering of wh- questions (what do you want first?, what does he need to see?, where do you put his hat?) and promotes turn-taking and joint attention. Mr. Potato head can also be used to promote identification abilities (point to his nose, eyes, ears) and facilitate your child’s ability to follow directives with increasing complexity (put on his hat, put on his hat then glasses, put on his nose after you put on his eyes).
Blowing bubbles is a fantastic way to work on and facilitate breath support and oral motor skills such as lip rounding. Bubble blowing also provides an opportunity for children to hone their language skills by requesting for the item “bubble, bubbles please”, requesting for an action “blow, give me, dip, open, pop” or repetition “more, again”. Bubble blowing also reinforces pragmatic skills such as turn-taking and joint attention (shared focus of two individuals on an object). The vocabulary associated with bubble blowing also reinforces the CVC (consonant-variable-consonant) context that I find myself always working on in therapy.
An echo microphone is a great resource for targeting specific sounds. I love to use the echo microphone in therapy for vowel sounds and vowel differentiation. I find the microphone to be a great way to incentivize imitation at any level or context. The microphone can also be a great tool to practice fluency skills such as light contact, slow easy speech and stretched vowels.
Play Dough is one of my favorite activities that incorporates sensory stimulation and provides children with great natural opportunities encourage language development. You can use play-dough to address many different skills by using certain accessories such as rolling pins and cookie cutters to facilitate your desired goal. Play dough can be used to encourage imitation and symbolic play schemas by shaping the play dough into various items (e.g. baking a cake). Play Dough can be used to facilitate the understanding and production of action words such as “roll”, “cut” “pull” “push” “squeeze” “open” and “take out”. I especiialy love Play Dough because it has a lot of vocabulary associated with it that contains that CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) context that I am often trying to elicit. Play Dough can also be used to demonstrate concepts such as big/little, long/short and encourage color Identification.