Both Helen and I have spoken before about toys and games we like using in therapy. Although there are some fantastic speech and language specific products out there, you don’t have to have these. You can use many everyday toys and games to target speech and language development, you just need to keep in mind what you are targeting and how you can change the activity to make it easier or harder. It’s not about what you buy, but how you use it.
I find that I have a batch of current favourite toys, and then I change them as I find new things! (I get bored of playing the same games all day!). Although there are some staples that always stay. So I thought today I would write about one of my absolute musts.
We all LOVE bubbles! Well except the small percentage of children that really don’t and think they are sticky and horrible and/ or scream when they see them. That aside, bubbles are incredibly versatile and I couldn’t be without them. Now, being rather retentive, I have found a certain brand that I much prefer. They are called gazillion bubbles. They are more viscous and I find that children are more likely to be able to blow a bubble with them than other brands. However they have changed the mixture slightly and they now taste horrible! Not that I intentionally found this out, but you do end up with the mixture on your fingers or a child puts the wand on their lips and spends the next ten minutes pulling funny faces.
So why are bubbles so great?
-You can use them as a motivator. So if the child says the target sound/ word/ sign etc we can have a turn with the bubbles. This makes it much more fun to do the work.
– You can use them as a reward. If the child has worked really hard in the session, we might just have fun, running around popping bubbles.
– You can engage a reluctant child. Particularly with younger child, who may not want to talk, taking the pressure off and just having fun normally does the trick.
– They are great for encouraging early words and provide the opportunity for lots of repetition. “Pop, pop, pop!” for example. You can also model and encourage ‘more’, ‘gone’, ‘please’, ‘up/down’ etc. Once all the bubbles have popped, put the wand back in the pot and wait. I often say “bubbles gone” with a slightly shocked expression on my face! At first the child might point to the pot or try and get the wand. Fantastic – they have communicated that they want more. I always ask the question “more?” even thought I know that’s what they want, as I am providing them with the chance to copy the word. You can build this up to more “more bubbles” or even “more bubbles please”.
– You can use them for making choices. Once you have established the choice of wanting more – or not, you can extend this. I will give the choice between blowing the bubbles up or down, to the door or the window (or whatever is appropriate for the room you are in!), to mum or dad, teddy or you. You can really use anything in the vicinity. This can again target any basic vocabulary you want to work on.
– You can use them for early concepts. Now this is another reason why I like the gazillion bubbles, as you can blow fantastic big bubbles with it! So you can also support big and little. You can give the option – “big bubbles or little bubbles” and the child can choose. Or you can talk about the bubbles and comment “That’s a big bubble….. Look little bubble” etc Also we often have ‘wet’ hands by the end!
– You can use them to develop listening and attention skills. Speech Therapists talk a lot about ‘ready, steady, go activities. This is where you use a motivating activity and before the fun bit happens, you want the child engaged and hopefully making eye contact (although not always depending on the child). Intially you have to say ‘ready, steady, go” quite quickly to keep the child engaged, but you can start to pause between the words and make the child wait longer. I love the look of anticipation on a child’s face when you play this game!
– You can use them to work on turn taking skills. “Is it your turn or my turn?”, “You have just had a turn, so it’s my turn!” etc. As a ‘turn’ in bubbles is relatively quick, it’s a nice game to introduce turn taking with as the child doesn’t have to wait too long until it’s their go again!
– You can use them for targeting grammar. “We are blowing bubbles” “You blew the bubbles” “All the bubbles have popped!” etc
– You can use them to develop motor control to help sound development. Now, we don’t suggest general activities just to improve clarity, but targeted activities to support movements for a specific sound can help. For younger children, or children who have difficulty sequencing and coordinating their movements, blowing bubbles can help them learn an oral airstream which will help the fricative sounds /s/ and /f/ for example. You can also encourage lip rounding for sounds like /w/. So again, you just need to keep you target in mind.
– Now, don’t assume that bubbles are just for younger children as secretly we all still enjoy watching bubbles! You just need to be clear what you are targeting. I have used bubbles with older children to develop descriptive skills and harder vocabulary and concepts. We have discussed their shape – yes they are round, but we extended to spherical. They are fragile as they pop and they aren’t constant. They are a beautiful colour, you could call them iridescent and they often shimmer in the light. Are they malleable, can they change shape? They are a liquid in the pot, but what properties do they have when they become a bubble? Can you estimate how many bubbles there are? So even with a ‘simple’ toy like bubbles you can target literacy, numeracy and science targets!
So have I missed any? Do you use bubbles to meet another target? Helen and I will write more posts like this, so if there is a certain toy you would like us to write about let us know.