How’s your Christmas shopping going? Better than mine, I hope! I always refuse to think about it until December and then panic that I will never get it done in time!… Whatever is on your Christmas shopping list this year, I can pretty much guarantee that something you will end up with in the house on Christmas Day is empty boxes! And we all know that kids love boxes! I’m sure I’m not the only one who has ended up wondering why I bothered to buy a gift since the packaging seems to be more exciting! So, before you put them all out with the recycling, here are some ideas about how to use a box (or boxes) to develop language skills….
- Imaginative play. A big box can become a fort or a puppet theatre. A small box can be a hat or a car. This stage of pretend play, where a child pretends that one object is something else is a really important stage of language development. If your child struggles with this sort of play, try putting them in a big box and pulling them around like a car, or fly a small box around in the air making plane noises and see if they will join in. A box can be pretty much anything – follow your child’s ideas if they have any and get down and join in with them.
- Posting – this is a game well known to all speech therapists! Cut a hole in a box and make it into a posting box. It never ceases to amaze me how much small children love posting pictures into a box and taking them out again. I work with some 2-3 year olds who will happily look at 20 or more pictures, talk about them and post them into a box. This is a great easy activity where I can weave in pretty much any speech or language skill.
- Feely box – Equally a lot of small children love reaching into bags and boxes and pulling things out. Make a hole in the box and put a variety of things inside. Get your child to reach their hand in and pull something out – what is it? Obviously you can tailor the items to your child’s level – you could use everyday objects, more unusual items from around the house or all things beginning with a particular sound. With an older child, get them to reach inside and guess what the item is before they pull it out. Talk about what it feels like – is it sticky or hard or prickly? Does it have corners? Pull it out and see if they were right. You could easily make this into a game where you take turns to hide things inside and see if you can choose something the other person can’t guess.
- Find the sound – Find something that makes an ongoing sound – a ticking clock for example. Hide it under one of the boxes and see if the child can listen and identify where the sound is coming from.
- Throw stuff! – another thing that most kids love! You could throw in soft balls, balloons, beanbags, rolled up socks, paper balls – anything that isn’t going to wreck your house or knock over the Christmas tree! I once managed to keep an 8-year old engaged for a whole 30 minute therapy session throwing things into a box. First we had a competition to see who could get the most in. Then he started close to the box and took a step back each time – could he still get the beanbag in the box? Then we took turns – one person throwing the beanbags and the other trying to catch them in the box. While we were doing all of this of course, I was weaving in lots of speech sound practice – he had to say 3 words before he threw each beanbag. Equally, you could use any other language cards, or ask them to follow an instruction each time before doing it. With a smaller child who is working on first words, don’t use any cards. However, any repetitive activity like this is great for repeating words over and over again for them to hear while you play – in, catch, go, again…
- Prepositions – hide toys and talk about where they are. Is it in the box? Under the box? Next to it? Give your child instructions of where to put different items. If you have a range of boxes, add in more descriptive information too – eg “put the teddy under the blue box” or “put the ball next to the round box”.
- Obstacle course – this is great for giving and following instructions. You can climb into boxes, step over them, go between them, pick them up and put them in different places. Give your child simple instructions to follow and then give them a chance to give you instructions as well. If they are able to follow one instruction, try giving two at a time (eg “climb into the big box then stand on one leg”).
- Auditory discrimination – this is another variation on the throwing theme!.. If your child is working on listening to the difference between different speech sounds, boxes are a great fun way to do this. Find two boxes and put a letter or speech sound picture on each one. Say a word and see if your child can identify which sound was at the beginning and throw a beanbag (or other item of your choice) into the correct box.
What other therapy activities have you done with boxes?
This post is part of a series of posts about how to use everyday toys in therapy. You can also read – How to use… bubbles, How to use… a teddy or dolly, How to use… a car or train and How to use… a ball.