I first discovered the app My Play Home when I was looking for apps for my daughter. She adores this app and plays it all the time! As I watched her playing it though, I realised that it has all sorts of possibilities for speech therapy.
My Play Home is essentially a doll’s house on a tablet. On the free version you get a kitchen and lounge – on the paid version, you get a bathroom, bedroom and back garden as well. There are also a family of people that you can move around and get them to do all sorts of things – open curtains, switch music on and off, hold things, eat things etc. etc. A recent upgrade also means that (if you have two tablets) you can play with another person, both moving the same figures around and seeing the same thing on your screens. This is great as it means you can use it as a genuinely interactive toy! You can see a great video review of the two-screen version here (my daughter’s favourite YouTube channel!)
First of all, a disclaimer. Pretty much everything that you can do with this app, you can also do with a doll’s house. I do not recommend that you buy this in place of a doll’s house. However, for variety as well as a toy one, this is lovely. Also, for me, as a travelling therapist, it’s far too difficult to carry a doll’s house around with me. This works well!
There are so many things that you could do with this app. Here are some ideas:-
- Vocabulary. There is so much vocabulary in a house. As well as all the furniture, there is food, toys, clothes, people. Also, don’t forget the wide range of verbs. The people can dress, sleep, sit, brush their teeth, swing, and so many more things. Verb vocabulary is really important in early language – see this post for more about why.
- Putting sentences together. Encourage your child to put simple sentences together about what the people are doing. One of the strategies that we often suggest to encourage more verbal language is to reduce the amount of questions that you ask and comment instead. This app works brilliantly for this. Even if you are working on a single screen version and your child is reluctant to let you manipulate the people, comment on what the people are doing. “Oh daddy’s making tea… sit down daddy… here comes mummy….”
- Sequencing. Once a child is able to put short sentences together, one of the next important steps is to be able to string 2 or 3 short sentences together. Get the people to do simple tasks and see if your child can describe each step – eg “the boy is getting his toothbrush… he’s putting the toothpaste on… he’s brushing his teeth”.
- Following instructions. Another thing you can do is to tell your child what to make the people do and see if they can follow the instructions. You can start with simple instructions such as “make daddy sit down” and work towards more complicated ones such as “make the girl go upstairs and put her pink pyjamas on”. You could take turns with your child to give instructions and to follow them.
- Practise conversation and role-play skills. This works particularly well in the 2-player version, but you can also do it with a single screen version too. Imagine you are the person and say what they would say. For example, if you were being one of the parents you might say, “it’s time to get up now… let’s open the curtains… it’s a school day today”. You could even use the people to act out some particular scenarios and talk about how they people might feel and what they might say. For example, the boy might push the girl off the swing. How does she feel? What might she say and do?
- Answering questions. This is really an extension of the previous point. You can ask all sorts of different questions while you are role-playing. For example, who will eat the apple? Where is he going now? Why is the girl sad? etc.
- Teaching concepts. There are a few concepts that are easy to practise over and over again with this app. For example, you can practise in, on and under by putting different items (such as the toys in the bedroom) in different places and talk about where they are. You can switch the lights and the music on and off, and there are lots of things you can open and close – the fridge, the cupboards, the oven etc. This gives you lots of opportunities to practise these concepts.
- Tenses. Because you can make a story or task play out from start to finish it is a good way to practise tenses in a meaningful way, by talking about what they are going to do or what they did as well as what they are doing now. For example, “The girl will sit”. Make the girl sit down. “The girl is sitting”. Then make her do something else. “The girl sat”.
If your child enjoys this app, there are a series of them. My Play School, My Play Hospital and My Play Store can be downloaded separately. The apps connect to each other so when you go out the front door of the house you can make the people get in the car, drive down the road and get out at the shop, or school or wherever. The shop one is particularly good for language (and for fun – it’s my daughter’s favourite!) Now you have a whole village! You can even take items from the shop back home again and put them in the house!
If you have this app and want to work on giving instructions with it, there is a great pack of activities full of ideas for making instructions gradually harder. You can buy it on Teachers Pay Teachers here.