Over the next couple of months I am going to share some posts about my favorite toys and how I use the toys in therapy to encourage receptive and expressive language. We will also discuss ways the toys can be used to help with attention and joint attention. If you enjoy my weekly posts and want the posts emailed to you, follow the directions below and be sure to confirm that email WordPress sends you. So, what are we going to talk about today? Playdoh! Who does not love good ole playdoh?! I have a friend who is great about making the playdoh at home or within her sessions, but I am fan of the store and purchasing the doh already made. Feel free to share your favorite playdoh recipe on this post to share with others. Lets talk about language and playdoh.
Many moons ago, I worked with an Occupational Therapist who drew a face on a tennis ball and slit an opening for the mouth. We called him Ball Man. I had a little help making 3 news ones for this post. (See below. Two dollars for the can of 3 at Target.) At the time, we had little round discs that she would encourage the kids to use a pincer grasp to take a disc. Then the child was prompted to release the disc into the mouth. I remember telling her to patent the ball. Why? I cannot tell you how many kids have imitated opening their mouth using that tennis ball as a model! You can also utilize Ball Man as a reinforcer in an attempt to elicit a sound! (We talked about within-stimulus reinforcers in this post.)
Yes! Sound imitation! Tell the child, “Say ah”. “Say e.” Say o”. etc. If the child is successful with this type of imitation then I might move to reduplicated syllables and ask the child to say “mama” “baba” or “dada”. I might also try sounds in isolation such as “p” or “b” or “d”. Here is a sound development chart from my Pinterest page to take a gander at if you are wondering what age-appropriate sounds to encourage. If sounds in isolation or reduplicated syllables are too hard go back to the vowel sound imitation.
Cookie cutters! Use them! Some of my visual learners, such as kids with autism, love letters and numbers so I might start there with the playdoh. If your child can label/name letters but is not yet selecting a named item when you ask, then hold up two cookie cutter letters and say “Get A” or “Where is B?”. In every post that I reference receptive tasks I will mention my prompts post. Why? Because in my experience, training, and observation over the years, we including me, over prompt children. We need to learn how to provide as little prompting as possible so these skills can become spontaneous. My best friend Cari and I like to have garage sale weekends and Goodwill missions. One of my best purchases was a set of 100 unopened cookie cutters with transportation, food, animals, letters, etc. Do you have any stashed away?
Another favorite of mine is making a pretend birthday cake… I have small wooden pegs about 2 inches tall that I use as candles. One of my favorite words during this activity is “poke” using my best speech pathologist voice with increased intonation at the tail end of the word. I have had countless kiddos imitate the word “poke” using my silly word model and then proceed to put the peg into the playdoh. If the child starts to readily imitate me I might consider saying “b” or “d” etc when I poke the peg in the playdoh. During these activities I don’t say to the child “say poke” or “say b”. I model the sound without expecting imitation. Why? Many of the kiddos I see are more apt to imitate spontaneously than on request. If your child has apraxia this may be the case as well. Something to consider.
Then, we can sing Happy Birthday. Why Happy Birthday? Our kiddos that have childhood apraxia of speech or delayed language in general, may benefit from using songs or books that provide repetitive verses. (Visit my resource page for a few more of my favorites under books-kids.) This is one way to encourage a child to chime in with a word when you provide a pause. Don’t be in a hurry to finish the song. Think about “Happy Birthday to… (pause) then sing “you”. Then we can take the pegs out. Don’t let the fun stop there! I have an old Hawaiian punch container with a hole cut into the top of the lid. Kids love putting the pegs into the container. My friend Lorri uses a parmesan cheese container that has precut holes. Brilliant use of items that can be found in your home.
For an extended pretend play activity we can include plates and forks and cups too! Let’s have some fun! Let the kiddo cut the playdoh into pieces with a pretend knife. Ask, “Where does the cake go?” (Answer: “on” or “on the plate”) When placing the candles we could ask, “Where do the candles go?” (Answer: “in” or “in the cake.”). Pretend to pour juice or milk and ask, “Where does the milk go?” (Answer: “in” or “in the cup”).
All of these suggestions provide a tool to bring to the playdoh. Why is this important? Because many of the kiddos I see do not like to touch playdoh. Think about pairing a motivating item with the playdoh. The child may be more apt to interact with you during this activity. If your child does not like to touch playdoh and other soft or messy items, he/she may benefit from an Occupational Therapy evaluation too. Using other tools also allows for a variety of learning and playing opportunites. I would love to hear how you are using playdoh in your sessions as I have only mentioned a couple!