Ideas for Increasing Language With Child Led Play

Some basic toys and a few dollars at the discount store/section and you can easily make a reusable language rich, child led play activity! This was a set up for one of my young clients. It was so much fun, I have left the tape on the table, the tub underneath and almost all of my clients under age 6 have spent multiple sessions creating and recreating little villages, farms or race ways. The possibilities are endless (especially if you add a couple different things for the next play time). I’ll admit, I was not a creative imaginative child and did not have that skill as a mom with young children; it is a skill that I have learned and practiced! Learning to follow the child’s interests has made this easier and more fun for everyone! I don’t have to have a specific plan for play – I just comment, ask a question or two, briefly play ‘my way’, add something silly, or just follow exactly what they do! Here are some ideas for different ways of incorporating language as you play with your little and some tips for different styles of play.

Items to use: painters tape to make road designs, colored pom poms (used as flowers sprinkled on the table, a pond of blue for the duck, green grass for the horse, or dirt scooped up and dumped by construction trucks), building blocks (to make bridges, schools, hospitals, fences), farm animals, and a variety of vehicles.

Toddler – make car sounds as you play – “beep beep!” “honk!” “screech!” “vrroom vroom” and “crash!” Narrate and repeat actions for Go, Stop, Turn, Fast and Slow. If you have a toy bus, sing or play the song “Wheel’s on the Bus” while moving the bus. Set the animals up, name them and make the animal sounds, use words ‘in/on’ and put the animals on or in a vehicle, take them some pretend food to eat and use sounds/words like ‘Mmm,’ ‘yummy’ ‘eww’ or ‘ick’ to get some giggles.

Three-Four years old – Use the blocks to make a bridge for the cars to go zooming under, don’t crash into the bridge or you’ll have to start again! – or do – the kids love making their own  sound effects, rebuilding, the challenge of getting the vehicle under the bridge at a fast speed! This is also great for teaching cause and effect! Set up a school area, a farm area, a construction or a zoo area and have the different vehicles/animals interact with each other. This is a good way to incorporate ‘wh’ questions. Animals can fall over (or off the table) because they are tired or sick and need help to feel better. Lining up blocks, animals or cars can be a great way to incorporate sequential words like first, next, last, beginning, end. If you have many different animals, categorize them by color, number of legs, where they live, etc. This could also be done with blocks by shape, size or color.

Five-six years old – Work together to build a bigger area of something (taller bridge, bigger fence, make a new school) and talk about what to start with, items that will go next, what to get more of, and what is needed to be put on last. Use items with preposition terms: over, under, next to, and between to teach these basic concepts. These are age appropriate terms that help children have fun learning about sequencing, positions as well as following directions. Plus working together is great for relationship building while encouraging other social interactions – all important skills for this age.

How to create flexible thinking during play ~ for those kids that are more rigid in their style of play (and usually prefer to play alone!) The first thing is to  play like they are ~ follow what they do, make the same motions and sounds. Next, take a break and just watch for a bit. Point to something and make a comment.  Play like they are again and change one thing! (go faster, move something to a new place for a bit, then put it back).  Continue to do that one thing a few times.  But keep playing like they do. Add in some new sounds, a new word or one question. Maybe add in a suggestion or new item as part of their set up.  When they push it away or change it the way they want, acknowledge it with a nod or simple ‘ok.’  Wait a bit and try again.  Over a few minutes of gently changing one thing, children will often adopt that change into their play. I’ve used this style of play and seen this happen time and time again.  Showing interest in their interests but gently teaching new ideas allows for more flexibility in their thoughts and actions.

Inside Scavenger Hunt

"I'm Bored!"

If it’s summer and raining outside or in the middle of a winter storm and you’re all stuck inside, when your child says, “I’m bored!!”  sometimes as a parent you feel yourself take that big sigh and think to yourself, “Now what? I’ve already let them watch their favorite movies, they’ve used all the screen time up and they didn’t like the last 3 suggestions I offered!” But have you ever tried an inside scavenger hunt?? This is a fun activity that will keep children of all ages interested and busy. The visuals will help younger ones, which can be a great language and learning opportunity. If you have a competitive child or children, set a timer and see how quickly and accurately they can find everything.
Inside scavenger hunt
15 items to find inside
When everyone comes back with their items, see what each item is! Don’t forget to talk about the things that are the same or different for each category for added language opportunities! My kids often wanted to play it again! So we made the rule of finding new items for each category.  Pro parent tip: before starting the game, be sure to have some rules about not stealing from others, the first one to the item gets to claim it, and when you are finished with the activity, everyone will put away what they got out!! Or turn it into another game of who can put away all their items the fastest!

Therapy Ideas for SLPs

Quick Ideas for Spicing up those therapy sessions!

Book Talk

I have only recently started incorporating books into my therapy sessions.  I use them for little ones because we all know reading to children is a great language activity and even the youngest ones love to be able to help 'read' because they can memorize and learn the phrasing so quickly.  I also recently used a familiar children's book to target sounds at the reading level with a 10 year old for articulation therapy. Because of the repetitive nature, it was (almost) like they were speaking at the conversation level. This activity helped the child and parent understand that even though the sounds are clear at the word and phrase level, we still had work to do until they had mastered the sounds at the conversation level! To help keep track of the sounds, I created this data sheet for all the /r/ words - grouped them by vocalic /r/ the positions in the word for easier calculations! Then I made /l/ too! 
I would love to share these with you! To get your .pdf of the /r/ or /l/ data collection sheets for Polar Bear Polar Bear, What do you Hear?  Email me:

Trash Talk

You know these cute little pencil holders/recycle bins that are at Dollar Tree?  I have used mine repeatedly in so many ways and the kids love it! Here are a few possibilities to use or to get you thinking of your own ways...
use the trash can for many kinds of therapy

Support Group

Are you a parent of an autistic child?

Do you wish you could talk with other parents and share ideas to get support?

Plan to come to the support group Pathway Journey, the 4th Tuesday of the month at 6 pm at the Stryker Library.