When I was in school I had a professor who told us she could serve her entire speech therapy practice using only a Mr. Potato Head. Those words followed me through graduate school and my early years of practice when my bag was overflowing with toys. Over time, I discovered my magical toys, the ones that could help children of different abilities achieve a variety goals. All of my favorites are “batteries not needed” toys. They don’t have any type of electronic noises or voices. My goal is for my clients to do all the talking!
1. BUBBLES: A jar of bubbles can help me achieve a variety of goals. Words such as me, mine, my, pop, big, bubble, open, and more can all be incorporated into bubble playing. I can work on establishing eye contact as the child watches me blow the bubble. A variety of semantic relations can be used including commenting ( big bubble!), and requesting (More). Bubbles can also be used to teach the concepts of wet vs. dry. Bubble blowing is also a perfect oral motor activity when working on lip rounding. Turn taking can be a goal when using bubbles.
2. BALLOON ROCKET: Locatives including on, off, in, under, up, down can all be taught using the rocket. Children of all ages are so excited when we use this. The balloons are different colors and while I don’t “teach” colors in a drill type fashion I will label the colors. I can work on “same and different” using the balloons. “Let's pick a different color for the next launch”, "which balloon is the same?” For some children placing the balloon onto the rocket can be difficult thus setting up a perfect opportunity for the child to request help either verbally using words or non-verbally by handing the item to an adult. The use and understanding of Wh questions can be a focus using this toy. “Where should I launch it”, “where did the balloon go” This is a good activity to encourage joint attention. Again this is another good toy for taking turns.
3.ECHO MICROPHONE: This toy is great for back and forth reciprocal play. I can work on sound imitation with my emerging language, non-verbal and/or apraxic children. When a child makes a noise he/she can hear it echo. Children are excited to hear their voice. Many of my clients have said their first word or sang their first song into an inexpensive party store echo mike. One boy is now a musical prodigy!
4.WOODEN BLOCKS: Many spectacular creations have been built in my office using basic colored wooden blocks. Descriptive words including big, little, and colors can be taught. Superlatives such as longest and shortest can be incorporated into the play scheme. Prepositions on, in , under are a part of block building. Blocks are wonderful for a child’s imagination. Boats, rockets, planes houses and even houseboats have been built. Turn taking is always a goal when building with others.
Shari Goldstein received her masters from Boston University. She has been practicing for over 30 years and has supervised graduates completing their Clinical fellowship year. Presently, she has a private practice in Westport, CT and she is a consultant for Connecticut's birth to three program. She has done extensive work with children on the autism spectrum, children with apraxia, oral motor issues as well as articulation concerns.