I am linking up with Ashley from Sweet Southern Speech to share some of my favorite gift ideas that help to develop speech and language skills. As I’m writing, I can’t help but think back to when I was buying all kinds of toys and games for my boys.  It seemed that I could fill the living room without breaking the bank.  We are basically down to clothing, gift cards and electronics at this point, piles that seem to be the fraction of the size and triple the cost of years past. Anyway, as fun as it was, I did have the challenge of buying for three boys. How many trucks and army guys can you have? With the youngest having a Christmas Day birthday, there was even more to buy and at times I felt like I was buying just for the sake of buying. I always welcomed the suggestion for a gift that I hadn’t quite thought of or wasn’t on the list. I found that sometimes the gift I picked up at the last minute that wasn’t on the list, sometimes turned out to be the favorite.

Here are some of my suggestions for gifts that may or may not be new to you. Maybe some will become unexpected favorites. They are all gifts that can help develop speech and language skills. In no particular order…

  1. CHILDREN’S COOKBOOKS: It doesn’t really matter which one. There are so many to choose from now. I may be a little partial to the Betty Crocker Junior Cookbook. I still have mine from when I was about 6 years old. Benefits, kids will be reading, following directions, sequencing, learning vocabulary for food and equipment. They will be learning a life skill, while they are spending time with you! They may even discover some new favorite foods.junior cookbook
  2. UNO: I’m sure you’ve already heard of it but it has such universal appeal. With all the different theme choices now, there’s something for everyone. It’s a game that can be played with adults and little ones. For some little ones, I modify the game by removing all of the “special” cards, such as reverse, skip and wild. It then simplifies the game to matching. This game helps with turn-taking, winning and losing, colors, numbers, some strategy, joint attention and directionality. These games are affordable and portable making them perfect for travel and keeping on hand for emergencies if you find yourself waiting somewhere unexpectedly. If you’re stuffing stockings, it’s a perfect fit!SPIDERMAN UNO
  3. MELISSA AND DOUG STICKER PADS: These sticker books are appealing to boys and girls alike. They really get the creative juices flowing. The pictures and stickers are so fun ranging from cupcakes and donuts, to animals and habitats to vehicles and castles with princesses. These books are loaded with opportunities to develop vocabulary. These books also naturally give little ones something to comment about. I know in my speech room, they are so excited about their pictures they can’t help themselves but talk about what they are doing. If sharing the sticker pads with others, there will be opportunities for negotiation. These pads are available directly from the Melissa and Doug website but I have also seen them at various craft stores that offer significant discounts. melissa and doug make a meal melissa and doug animals
  4. LAST WORD: We are big gamers in my house. Not the gambling type. The board game type. We play every holiday and we are always looking for a game that both the adults and the younger ones can play. This one fits the bill! This game is perfect for categorizing. The object is to name as many items in a category as possible at the same time, starting with specific letter. No repeats allowed. The last one to call a legitimate answer before the timer goes off gets to move ahead on the board game. We have modified to remove the letter requirement for younger players. I’m not going to lie, this game has come out at night with just the adults and can take on a no-kids allowed in the room version. For about $20 you can find this game at most stores carrying games (e.g. Target and Walmart). If you are working on winning and losing, negotiating and being flexible, or your children are working on those things, this is a must have game. last word
  5. ORCHARD TOY GAMES: I have recently discovered Orchard Toys. These bright and engaging games appear to be simple, but can offer a bit more complexity for older ones (7-8 year olds). If you don’t want your child to play a game with a burping gorilla, then you should avoid the Greedy Gorilla. All of these games develop some type of skill which is outlined on their Orchard Toy Website. Many games target vocabulary, memory, turn-taking, using strategy, winning and losing and joint attention. I have ordered my games on Amazon and have been able to get most for around $12-$15. rockets and comets
  6. PHOTO BOOK OR CALENDAR: It may be too late for this year but could be something to think about for next year. My students LOVE when I take their pictures. They love when I send them home to parents and they especially love when they see themselves and their friends on the monitor in the front of the school. I think a book or calendar chronicling the year of the child would be so exciting to open. So many opportunities to talk about past experiences. When looking at these books with others they will be asked “where were you?”, “who did you go with?”, “what did you do there?”, questions many of our kiddos are working on.  I have made photo books through snapfish and have found them very easy to use. I’m sure there are other sites that provide the same service. I am just posting the one I have had experience with. photobook I have made books for vacations but wish I had done this for my kids when they were small. A gift, a keepsake and a language developer. Win. Win. Win.
  7. My last suggestion is not actually a gift but an activity. Even though this can be a crazy and hectic time of the year, it really is a nice time to go through the old stuff (toys, books, games) and decide what is worth keeping, what is worth throwing away and what is worth finding a new home.I know that it’s easier to do it without the kiddos but it does provide a good opportunity for some early developing executive functioning skills. Most little ones won’t be able to do this alone, but once we provide a framework and a system to use, they often find it easier to complete the task. Providing a physical space, whether it be a bin, box or a sheet labeled for each group, will help to provide visual support for the sorting. You may also have an “I don’t know” area as well.  Doing this, we are providing kids the opportunity to explain why they might want to keep something or get rid of something that we think may have been costly and hasn’t been used enough. If you are wondering what to do with toys, books or games that need a new home, find a school based therapist or preschool. We hardly ever say no to those gently used items.

We all have different traditions and feelings on gift giving.  What ever your philosophy may be, most of us are still buying gifts for younger ones, whether they be sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, grandchildren or an “adopt a family” child.  If you are purchasing for a young one, you may want to consider one of my suggestions for gifts that promote speech and language. For other suggestions, link back to Sweet Southern Speech to see what other therapists are recommending. Santa_s List Blog Linky

Happy Holidays!



Games, games and more games

Recently, more and more parents have asked me about the apps I recommend for home. While I use apps with students and find many of them helpful, I don’t really recommend them for home. I have let parents know the apps I have found to be successful, but in general, my recommendations for carryover of speech, language and communication skills are not apps.

What do I recommend for home carryover? Games, games and more games. Games target so many of the skills our children are working on: following directions, giving information, providing explanations, concept development, social interactions, turn taking, problem solving, opportunities for articulation carryover and the list goes on…Depending on the game, math skills and reading fluency could also be targeted. It’s also good quality time for the family. We have many game nights in my family. Ages range from my youngest niece, who is 9 to my mother who probably doesn’t appreciate her age being revealed. We also bring a new board game to almost every holiday. In the summer time we have “game nights” by my brother’s pool. The teenaged boys actually request these nights with the family. Here is a great list of games by the artful parent. I also strongly recommend cranium games. Some favorites in my family also include Last Word which can be scaffolded for different playing levels, Catch Phrase and What’s Yours Like? There are so many games that are great for carryover practice, it would be impossible to list them all. You probably have some in your closet right now. Go take a look.

I know not everyone loves to sit and play board games, but not all games need to be sedentary.  This Easter we launched our first Easter Games (I took first in yo-yo and jump rope, thank you very much). The games we played required establishing teams, negotiating events, keeping score and demonstrating sportsmanship (more on that later). We only had one episode of tears. You can find a list of some old fashioned games for outdoors here. It should finally be nice out this weekend so get out there and play!

Now, a little about sportsmanship. I think (my opinion), that children should participate in games to learn how to win and lose gracefully. In this day and age when everyone “earns” a trophy for participating, it seems that children have a harder time losing. I don’t have any data on hand to back that up, but if I start to track it I’m sure I could. Many children ask me if a game is a winning game or losing game, because they don’t want to play a game that they might lose. While I understand that, being a little competitive myself, I think it’s important for children to learn how to lose. How is that related to speech and language? Social communication. We have observed many a student have a very difficult time losing, to the point that they require adult assistance to pull themselves back together. This does not put one in the best light with peers, socially. The same holds true for the student who is not the most gracious winner. No one loves a ‘sore winner”. In the speech room, you are only allowed to announce “I won!” two times and the winner usually gets to clean up, all in good fun.

I’m not suggesting that games are the only way to carryover speech, language and communication but I do find them to be a powerful and motivating context to practice some of the skills we are targeting. Try setting some time aside this weekend for some family game time if you aren’t  already. I think you’ll be glad you did.

What’s Happening in April

I’ve been wanting to share some of the daily happenings that occur in the speech room. I love that fellow blogger ChelseaSLP posts her weekly lesson plans. I thought I might try to post a general preview at the beginning of each month. These are general ideas and not all children will participate in each.

WHAT WE ARE READINGThere Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Frog, Leap Back Home to Me, Growing Vegetable Soup and Three Stretchy Frogs

april books

Language therapy in my speech room is almost always literacy based.  I would like to devote more time to that in another post so I will leave it at that for now.

WHAT WE ARE PLAYING: We are using lots of games during articulation sessions. Let’s face it, drill work can be a little dry ( I might liken it to learning to conjugate verbs when first learning a foreign language). This is where we use a little trickery. We mask the dryness of drills with fun games, crafts and activities. This month we are playing Fill the Farm Stand Game. We are also using Roll and Cover Game boards found here on TpT. Students also like using the spring themed boards for Seasonal Chipper Chat. 

farmstand game

During class meetings in some first and second grade classes we have been playing a Spring Themed Taboo Game. Why are we playing? It targets describing, explaining, listening, drawing conclusions and participating in social interactions.  Oh, and it’s fun. We are hoping to play a What’s Yours Like Game, in an adapted, child friendly version. This is still in the works.

To target some structural goals we are using Pronouns and Prepositions for Spring. The students love acquiring new seasonally related items for their boards and describing what they have. Many of the students can identify spatial concepts and follow directions involving them, but when asked to describe a location the response is often “it’s right here”. Not in my speech room! We will also be using spring themed barrier games (still in development). I am a huge fan of barrier games and I will probably devote a post specifically to that at another time.

WHAT WE ARE DOING: Hopefully we’ll get to some fun crafts like this cute garden picture.  (Notice some similar themes between some books, games and crafts??)

bunny craft

Why are we doing crafts? Crafts provide a fun and meaningful context to target sequencing, following directions, concepts, vocabulary, and it’s just fun to do. It also provides students with a hands on experience that can be talked about at a later time (relaying past events).

Hopefully, we will get a chance to re-pot some of our plants. Why are we doing this? Three reasons. One, the re-potting provides the same opportunities as when doing a craft. Two, we use the plants as a daily “job” for some students. Three, they’re not going to make it much longer if they’re not re-potted. Can’t have a watering job with no plants.

JUST FOR FUN: The second grade boys who come for articulation therapy have really been into sticker charts. I decided to try to make my own and take their requests. I’ve only done a few and they’re nothing fancy but the kids don’t seem to mind. Help yourself here.

Spring vacation is the week of April 19th. Every year we think it will be the last year with a break in February and a break in April. Best to enjoy, in case it’s our last April break.


Hopefully these are just some of the activities we get to this month.



Today’s Co-Treat with the OT

Today we had another fun day of co-treat sessions. I’ve mentioned our lunch groups previously; today highlights a typical, traditional speech and OT group. Today’s group was comprised of six kindergarten aged students who all receive speech/language, OT and resource. Our group time is 30 minutes. In addition to the speech room, Kat (the OT) and I share a classroom for treatment. This group takes place in a classroom.

Here is a breakdown of how we run a typical group.

1. Students enter and put their schedule books on a designated shelf and proceed to find a poly spot on the floor for a GoNoodle video. Side note- we use poly spots all the time to help students become grounded and mark their space…more on that another time…

2. Students transition to the next area. Today it was to the carpet to read There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Chick. Yes, we did have the Easter dilemma. Sometimes we change the words to Spring Bunny but since all of the students celebrate Easter we went with Easter Bunny.  Sometimes we read at a table, sometimes we read on the carpet. We try to keep a routine with some variability. We want kids to rely on the language and not just the routine. Students take turns feeding the old lady, nicknamed “Granny” by one of students this week. Funny how the kids never get tired of “feeding” the Old Lady and anyone or anything for that matter.

3. We use a transition question to move to the next area for the next activity. Today students had to recall an item  that she ate. Students aren’t allowed to repeat what another student has said so they need to listen to each other. Sounds simple but this can be a challenge for many of our kids. They are learning that this is a group expectation.

4. Today we borrowed a great idea from Katie from playing with words 365 Sequence necklaces! Graphics are courtesy of her site. First we had the students cut all the pictures of the items the Old Lady swallowed, in the correct sequence. As a modification for those students who have trouble cutting, we imported the pictures into Boardmaker and surrounded them with a bold outline, giving children a better visual of where to cut.

chick cut

5. Next the students sequenced the pictures onto a necklace. Targets include: sequencing, fine motor for threading and following directions. Notice the cotton ball to hold the pictures in place on the end of string…feels a little better than a string knot on the back of the neck. chick necklace

6. If we had the time, we could have had the students re-tell the story using their necklaces. Where does 30 minutes go?? Truth be told, we probably started late and went over late so it all works out.

7. Sometimes we have the students fill out a journal sheet to report on what they have done. Sometimes we send home a sheet completed by us so that the parents can ask about the session with their child.  Here you can find  a copy of the sheet completed by us: speech OT group communication. Feel free to copy for your own use or adapted use.

Why do I love co-treating with the OT? Well, first of all she has made me a better therapist. I now consider sensory, motor and regulatory needs in a way that I didn’t when I first started out. (That wasn’t on the grad school syllabus when I was in school). When you have that moment when a student accomplishes an anticipated skill for the first time there’s someone there to share the joy.  When I’m feeling like the well of ideas is dry, Kat is there to fill it up and vice versa. No matter how good we are, we can’t see everything in a session. It’s always nice to have another set of eyes when reflecting on how the session went and what to do for next time. I could go on but I’ll save some more for next time..