Favorite Activities from a Speech Therapist

Speech and Language Speech Pathologist, Hannah Ritchie, answers questions about her favorite therapy activities!

What are some of your favorite books to read in therapy?

I love so many books to use in my speech sessions, so it is very hard to pick just one! 

I like to find books that go with our therapy theme for the month, such as a season or common things children like. Other things to look for are predictable books: stories with a sequence, repetitive phrases, questions and answers, and rhyming. 

Many of my clients love the Pete the Cat series books, Maisy Mouse books, Dragons Love Tacos, and Froggy series books!

What about for little kids–is there a different favorite book you use with them?

For my little ones in preschool or under, I like to heavily focus on repetitive books with things that could engage them. That might mean  books that have textures to touch, lift the flap books, books with a song, or short stories with simple pictures. My favorites are Eric Carle books, Where is Spot?, and Little Blue Truck. 

What are some fun ways that you incorporate books or stories in your therapy?

After a story we try to work the theme into our activities. Crafts are always a perfect activity and kids can be hands on. Another idea is to make a sensory bin (hard, soft, textured, messy objects, water play, etc.) that is around the book theme. With all these activities, we would encourage language and therapy goals, but they’re seeing the same items/theme repeated over and over which help them learn the concepts.

What are some fun apps that you use to get the kids talking?

I have kids that love playing on ABCya.com for some fun interactive games for all ages. I also love using the Articulation Station speech app as a tool for my clients that need to work on articulation in words, phrases, and reading. 

Many times I will turn to YouTube and find things that interest my older clients or younger clients! That could be songs from Super Simple songs, or maybe a silly short video on YouTube. 

What are some of your favorite games/activities to target receptive language?

Playing hide and seek or a treasure hunt game are so useful for targeting receptive language. It can work on 1 or multistep directions, identifying items, understanding prepositions, understanding questions, and improves their listening abilities! 

Zingo is a great early language game for labeling objects, matching, turn taking, and labeling function of objects! 

And no surprise here… Books! Books are wonderful for listening skills, answering questions, vocabulary, and more.

What is your favorite social game to elicit joint attention language?

My favorite social games tend to involve no toys and lots of sensory movement. I find kids love some sort of body movement whether that is bouncing on a knee/ball, being lifted in the air, spinning around when being held, doing “airplane” on tall legs, big hugs, or tickles! Between each time you jump, spin, hug, etc. you pause between getting face to face with your child, and wait to see if you get eye contact, smiles, or a request for the activity to continue.

Do you have a couple of “go to” activities that provide opportunities for multiple skills to be targeted within that single activity?

Definitely! Playing pretend with a baby or other object (dinosaur/animal of choice) (baby eating, taking a bath, baby goes different places)

Playing “grocery store” 

Playing hide and seek with toys or yourselves

With these activities you can work on pretend play skills, answering a variety of questions, using pronouns, identifying items, identify the function of items, following directions, identifying body parts/clothing, understanding or using prepositions, and how to sequence steps.

Are there any re-purposed or unexpected props that you’ve found valuable/fun to use in therapy? 

Balloons, popcorn machine, flashlight, and a popper toy! 

Balloons for blowing and then letting it go is always a hit with little ones. Kids love to use flashlights in a darker room to find favorite items! Popper toys shoot a foam ball out of a little animal- perfect and simple game. And I love doing a popcorn machine with my older ones and we can practice sequencing, how to make popcorn, and they get a treat afterwards.

What are some ideas for communication opportunities in activities of daily living?

Try to find opportunities in your day your child can help you with a task. This can be doing laundry, cleaning up the play area, or during a daily story time. Based on what your child needs you can work on different goals within these activities. If you’re doing laundry that can target 1 step directions “Put the clothes in” “Let’s put that on top of the table”. Another example is targeting what questions or identifying items while cleaning the room- “Go get the ball” “What is it? Oh it’s a ball!” While you’re getting your child dressed in the morning, you can identify clothing or identify body parts. If you make these activities a routine and fun it will help encourage your child! 

How can families practice goals at home?

Every clients goals will be unique to them. Make sure as a parent you understand your child’s goals to get examples on what and how to target it at home. Use the tools your child loves to work on those goals whether that’s books, a certain movement activity, their favorite toys, or just yourself to play and interact with them. Providing a happy and fun environment for your child is the most important piece to encourage them to learn. 

My top 5 tips for what to do at home: 

Modeling- model what you want your child to say, without expectation for them to say it. 

Expanding- add one or two words to what your child is already saying. Child: “More” Parent: “More banana” “Give me more”

Giving choices- hold up options for your child to pick from and ask “what would you like?” or model the names of the items

Expectant waiting- If you ask your child a question, model a word, or you’re playing a social game, wait to see what they do! Wait for longer than you think you should. A lot of good happens in the in-between moments.

Sabotage- This could look like placing something they always have slightly out of reach and they have to communicate to you what they need! Or if they choose something and you give them the wrong one. Sometimes I will answer a question wrong for my kids that can correct me- they find it really silly and fun!