Sunday, May 22, 2016

Build Better Speech and Language Skills with Blocks!

Wow! We had such a fun week using blocks to build better speech and language skills! Blocks are a toy that most people have at home in one form or another. We have lots of blocks apparently! We have small wooden blocks, large wooden blocks, foam blocks, Duplo blocks, some kind of blocks I can't really explain with lots of little bumps on them, Jenga-style blocks, a block game and buckets of Legos.

Some of these ideas can be used with any of the blocks and some are more specific to what's on the blocks. Find some ideas that work with what you have!

Pick A Block!

Almost all of my activities involve having a child reach into the bag and pull out a block. The mystery of not knowing what you are going to get makes it fun not matter what the task is! I have a large cotton bag that holds my large wooden blocks nicely! The object of this game is to close your eyes and get a block! Pretty easy! Then we do different things with the blocks once they have been picked!

ABCs & 123s!

We worked on naming the letters or the numbers on the blocks. You could do letter-sound correspondence where the kiddo would say the sound that the letter represents. I'd ask "when your eyes see this (show the letter), your mouth says -" and then wait for him to make the sound. Sometimes we create castles or houses or super tall towers! This kiddo wanted to make a tall wall! For some of speech kiddos we would name a word that started with that sound and if we got a number block we would say a word that number of times!

Super Speech Practice

We had a list of speech sound words that needed to be practiced. We would say the words the number of times as the first number we saw on a block. This is an important rule for the 9/6 blocks! And some of the blocks have two numbers on them. So the rule was, what ever number you see first is the number of times you say it. For older kiddos, it can be a competition! We made towers out of our blocks and after we had each gotten 5 blocks we added up our points to see who "won" the game. In all reality, the child wins because he gets lots of practice saying his sounds correctly!

 Tongue Thrust Practice with a Twist!

Swallowing therapy is not always the most exciting therapy I do! It can be frustrating and difficult. We made it more fun this week by pulling out blocks with numbers on them and then practicing swallowing skills that number of times.

Imagine That!

We used blocks to create fun situations that we could not normally have in therapy. I'd love to actually roast marshmallows with a child but big fires in preschools are not usually approved! However, we created a fireplace with a roaring fire for our "baby" and we roasted away! I try to choose 3-5 target words that my kiddo is working on and then use those words 20-40 times each while we play. So, this kiddo was working on "f" and we had "fire," "find/found" and "fun." So our sentences sounded like "get some fire. Found some fire. Found more fire. I need more fire. Do you see fire? Get the fire! Move the fire. Be careful baby, that fire is hot! Move the baby away from the fire!" and so on!!

Colors! (or sorting by category)

Some blocks are super colorful and can be sorted by color! We pulled out the blocks one at a time and sorted them, talking about their colors! This can be done with many different kinds of blocks! You could even sort by the number of dots on Legos or some other category you find on your blocks!!

He Blocks-She Blocks!

We used blocks to work on pronouns! I have worked with many children who need practice with the pronoun "she!" Here is a fun way to practice "he" and "she." Pull out a block and decide who should get it. They can take turns (good for social skills!) or you can sort by toys who ever your child thinks should get it. You can also add "I" and "you" by having your child give blocks to himself and you! We said "She has an egg. She has a xylophone. She has a pear." You could also work on "her" and "his." "That is his ball. Those are his socks. Those are his candies!"

Block Head! Game

I love this game. It is a staple in my therapy supplies! I love the different colors and shapes. Over the years we've added some random other blocks to it and we've lost some, so your game will look very different than mine!

Speech Practice: One of my favorite things to do with these pieces is to cover a page of speech sound pictures then as they remove the blocks they reveal the hidden picture below and have to say what the picture is practicing their words!

Location Concepts: It's also a great game for practicing prepositions and giving directions "get the red square and put it on top of a yellow block." Or "tell me where I should put this purple one that looks like a 7?!"

Follow that Direction!

I don't know how many times I've played with these blocks and not realized that on one side of almost all of them there is a wall, a door or a window. They are perfect for setting up a little house or apartment scene! We worked on following directions like "put the window above the door" or "get the cat and put it at the back of the car" or "make the bee fly over the car while it says 'buzz!'" So fun!

No Blocks?!

Wait, what?!...there are some people who don't have blocks?! Alas, it's true! I had a family call and say they didn't have any blocks at home and wondered how to complete the speech homework that I had assigned. Enter: paper blocks! While they are not nearly as cool or fun as the real, wooden or foam version, they serve the purpose. On these little paper blocks we wrote numbers on the other side, then the kiddo turned one over and we practiced our speech sounds that number of times. You can use the paper blocks to make patterns or designs on the table. And these would be great to keep in your wallet to pull out at a restaurant and play a quick game to practice speech while you wait! You could even do a little competition to see who gets the most points before the drinks arrive or dinner is served! Pulling out a big box or bag of blocks is just not very practical in all locations so this is a great stand in!!

I hope that you have been inspired to grab some of your blocks, dump them out or hide them in a bag and play with your child! Above all, while its great to practice speech and language skills, use the opportunity for uninterrupted time to play and talk with your child! There are so many communication skills that you will help to develop by interacting with your child!

Go Play!!

Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Please know that I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Improve Speech and Language Skills with Mr. Potato Head

We've had a great week playing with Mr. Potato Head! I feel so blessed to have gotten a ton of accessories from a Disney-loving family at a garage sale a few years. But most of these ideas can be done with a regular Mr. Potato Head!

Monday, May 9, 2016

"Doh" you want to play?

 This month, to celebrate Better Hearing and Speech Month, I will be posting ideas of things you can do to develop your child's speech and language skills at home using toys and materials you likely already have!

Do you have little yellow containers of Play Doh? If not, you can make some homemade play dough that we love! Check it out here!

Are you ready to have some fun with play dough!?

Cover It Up!

You can make some play dough balls and cover up anything! We covered up speech sound pictures because we were working on words that end with G, but you could cover up sight words, pictures that need to be labeled, vocabulary/definition words, letters for letter recognition, colored scribbles to work on color naming, etc... Covering it up with play dough balls makes any activity more fun!

Create it!

We used a page of pictures of words that contained our sounds to get ideas of what to make out of play dough. We then used those words in phrases and sentences. For example, I created "hotdogs" but I used the word "hotdog" while I talked about cooking them on the grill and turning over the "hotdogs" and I made a "hotdog bun" and then we pretended to eat the "hotdog" and talk about how it tasted. Using speech sounds in meaningful and (sort of) real life activities helps the child develop the speech skills better than just drilling the child to say "hotdog" 50 times in a session.

With another client we made "S" words and had "silly socks" in our "soup" and we pretended to be very "sad" when it made us "sick." So much fun!

Earning It

Sometimes, I need a kiddo to work on something that I can't cover up or create out of play dough. In those cases they can earn small balls of play dough when they complete the task correctly. I typically ask "is that enough play dough? Or do you want more?" I have not yet had a child who didn't work to earn the entire container of play dough!

More/Less & Quantity Concepts

Quantity concepts like "more," "most," "less," "least" and the number of objects in a group are important concepts for kiddos 3 years and older. I like to start with big differences like in the photo above. I would ask the kiddo "who has more play dough?" Then you can redistribute the play dough balls and ask again. As your child gets better at telling who has more/less, make the differences between the number of balls closer. So instead of 8 and 1, or 7 and 2, try 3 and 6 or even 4 and 5.

You can also invite another person to join and divide the balls among all of the players. This is where you would work on "most" and "least." 

To work on the number concepts, I like to make a few piles of smaller balls and ask the child to find the pile that has "3 balls." Then I teach them how to make those 3 balls into a snowman. Or the 2 ball pile into a heart. Or the 4 ball pile into a flower. If they grab the wrong pile, I can say "oh I don't want to make another heart. Look this pile has 2 balls, let's find the pile with 3 balls!"


Play dough is a great way to introduce a ton of action words. For younger kiddos you can work on words like: roll, cut, pull, poke, get, grab, give, share, etc... Action words are great foundation words to building more complex language.

Another way to build action words is to show how you can use one action word in different situations (think about the word "open." You can open a door, open a book, open the fridge, open a container, etc... many contexts with the same verb). With the play dough, we used the word "cut" and talked about how lots of different tools cut in different ways. The pizza cutter sliced through while the scissors chopped to cut and we used the red tool (not sure what it's called!) to push to cut it. Lots of language and vocabulary development!

Here are some pictures of my son, Little W, and me playing and using new vocabulary!

We had a great time hanging out! I hope that you grab a container of play dough or make your own and enjoy spending technology-free time with your child!

Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Please know that I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, May 2, 2016

How to Put Down the Distractions and Focus on Your Family!

You can spend a dinner with your family and not be engaged with them at all. We've all been there, right? You are sitting there putting your first bite in your mouth after having cooked, served and cut into bite size pieces everyone else's food. Then your cell phone pings that you just got a text or it rings and you are pretty sure you "need to take it."

By the time you get back to the table, your family is mostly done with their food or are totally ready to get back to whatever activity they were doing before dinner.

Please tell me I'm not the only one...

Well, the other day we were at Chick Fil A, our favorite place for dinner on Friday nights! I saw this neat little contraption they call the Cell Phone Coop where you are supposed to put your phones (and probably any other distracting device) and not get them back until after you've eaten - and more importantly interacted with your family!

I loved it! I loved the idea. I love the little box. I loved the message it sent to my kids.

And so the next time we went I asked the cashier for one (apparently they keep them in the back office now). We put it on our table and tossed in my cell.

It was SOOO nice! My cell phone still pinged (at least 4 times) getting texts from people and there was one time when Big Sister said "hey let's look that up. Oh, wait, we can't. We can't use your cell right now."

But we talked. And laughed. We discussed the cars and people coming into the restaurant. Nothing profound. Big Sister used her imagination and pretended something crazy and we laughed.

It was a great dinner! I highly recommend that you head over to your local Chick-Fil-A and try out their Phone Coop while you enjoy spending time with your family, too!

Over the next month, I will be celebrating Better Hearing & Speech Month (#BSHM) and providing activities that families can do together to put down the tablets, iDevices and other electronics and interact with each other! Please join me this May as we have fun with our families building better communication through face-to-face interactions!

Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Please know that I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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