When it comes to early speech and language intervention, the simplest actions and objects can inspire progress—especially with your littlest subjects. We researched popular and effective early intervention techniques and found that school-based SLPs and other types of school-based therapists continue to be a crafty, creative and innovative crew willing to share what works. And for that, we are grateful.
Without fail, just about everyone with a school-based therapy job said they traveled with a magic sack full off goodies when making early intervention visits. Children love dipping into these special bags of tricks to see what they can discover. Your bag itself doesn’t have to be fancy—a simple pillowcase will do! But when used right, it will open the doors for exploring, manipulating, building anticipation—and eventually talking!
So, consider some of these ideas when creating your special bag and then get ready to exclaim most enthusiastically, “What’s inside?”
Don’t Ignore the Bag!
Before we even talk about what goes into your bag, don’t overlook the bag as a tool in its own right! After all, it’s perfect for playing hide and seek with objects, toys and even peekaboo. Watch your young student search for what’s missing and begin to make sense of object permanence.
Bubbles Never Go out of Style
Simple and much-loved by therapists and clients alike, bubbles should be part of every early intervention kit. Children are mesmerized by them and compelled to blow and pop, building on their vocabularies, articulation of /b/ and /p/ (pop pop)) and oral motor skills. No-spill bubbles make SLP life on the road even easier, so make the effort to look for them.
Cars, Trucks, Boats and Planes—And Don’t Forget a Bus!
Small vehicles are a great for getting kids talking, taking turns and building their knowledge of action words like vroom vroom and beep beep. Announce “ready, steady—go” before driving over little body parts. We’ve heard from many out there in the field that children often say the word “bus” before car, so if you can find a bus, it’s sure to be a favorite.
Get Wild with Animals
Who doesn’t have a favorite animal? Small animals are portable, interesting and excellent conversation starters. Work on animal sounds, of course. But you can also have your little critters say “hello” and “goodbye” to a child as they move in and out of the bag. As skills are mastered, you can progress to naming animals, action words and beyond.
Get Cooking with Play Food!
Bright fruits and vegetables inspire color recognition and the chance to put them in or take them out of a “recipe” pot or container. Kids especially love cutting and slicing the wooden vegetables with Velcro. Have them use the play knife or “open” the fruits and veggies by pulling them apart with their hands. As a bonus, the Velcro noise gives good sensory stimulation.
Wind Up for Fun
A walking robot, monkey with cymbals, hopping frog—there are so many fun wind-up toys out there to choose from. Some even come free in popular kid’s fast food meals! We encourage every SLP and other school-based therapist to build a small collection for use in early intervention sessions. Practice requesting words like “more” and “please.” These little movers are a great way to introduce and reinforce “go” with the phrase “ready, set….go!” You may also work on concepts like “down” by winding one up and asking the child, “Where should I put this?”
Build with Blocks
All types of blocks will do, but the Fisher Price peek-a-blocks are definitely a favorite among young students. Little builders will enjoy stacking while they learn “up, up, up.” And sometimes, it’s even more fun to knock them “down, down, down.”
Take Care of Baby
Dolls offer so many opportunities to learn and grow through pretend play. Be sure to have some accessories on hand like hats, bowls, spoons, cups and hair brushes. While any doll or even a stuffed animal can work for this type of activity, plastic dolls are especially great because you can do baths with real water! Work on receptive language by teaching a child to feed, dress, bathe or brush the baby’s hair. As your student progresses, consider creating a list of target words based on how he or she enjoys playing with dolls. Nouns to work on may include baby, doll, spoon, bowl, cup, hat, etc. Verbs include actions like washing, eating, sleeping, drinking, walking, etc. Big, little, wet, dry, yucky, stinky, pretty, etc. are great descriptive words to introduce. The possibilities are endless for building on success with dolls.
Stack Those Rings
Little hands love touching and gripping stackable rings. Put the smallest and the largest pieces next to each other to teach big versus small. Try stacking three pieces together to start working on the concept of sequencing and what comes next. Practice colors, counting and turn-taking using the rings. You can even put the rings over your mouth when making a sound and then to the child’s mouth when it’s his or her turn to respond. Don’t be afraid to get a little silly by looking through the rings for a fun game of “I see you.”
Get Hooked on Books
For early intervention, board books are best! You probably already have a small library of favorites. But for the next time you’re looking to switch out the picture books in your bag, here’s some great ones to try: anything from the Bright Baby collection (Colors, First Words, Animals, Trucks etc), Baby Faces by DK Publishing, Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes by Annie Kubler, and Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle and Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton.
We hope we’ve helped inspire some new ideas for your Early Intervention sessions. Do you carry a special bag? If so, what’s in it? As always, we want to hear from you.
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