The holidays are approaching! I don’t know about you but when I start looking for others I start buying for myself! I just emailed my mom and sister a couple of more ideas and bought myself two items yesterday while shopping for others! So, who needs ideas for their kids?! I cannot tell you how many times I hear, “My child does not play with his toys. Tracy you have the best toys.” I don’t know about the best toys but I am kind of finicky! When I walk into the toy aisles I put my therapist hat on and think about toys and my kids. What is the purpose? Is it multi-functional? What will the child learn? Is it fun? What kind of language can be elicited from the toy?
For some toys if you push a button the toy makes a sound. And, that is what you get. A toy that makes a sound. Which is great for cause and effect, “more” or maybe “go” but when looking at something beyond the basics, I might consider other options and ask myself some more questions. What kind of sound does the toy make? Does it REALLY need to make a sound? Sometimes the distraction of the noise takes away from the learning opportunity. If your child is not intrinsically motivated by many toys let’s think about what type of reinforcement the toy does provide and how that reinforcement can be used to shape a desired response.
I see many kids with low tone. I have low tone. A light fork or spoon in my hand does not cut it. I like my silverware with a bit of weight. Same with coffee mugs. (Coffee is my friend). What does this have to do with toys? I don’t know why but one day I thought to myself, I like these blocks because they weigh a bit more. I think the kids would like these blocks better too. And, I just started “weighing” in that factor when purchasing new items to use with some of my kids. A little heavier toy gives meaning to the hand per my experience and confirmation from my OT peeps.
I know! Cut to the chase! What is this week’s toy and tips post about! Have you seen this stringing set yet? This set is called the Smart Snacks Trail Mix & Match. Love it! It was a gift a couple years ago! Might as well use some snack items that are fun and life like. Well, larger than life like but easily held by little fingers. Sidebar…Stringing is another developmental skill addressed in early intervention. I found this informative blog on some other ideas for stringing. And here is another as to why this skill is addressed. One reason I like to incorporate stringing for my kids is that the activity is concrete. The expectation is visually depicted. There is a hole in the toy. There is a string. The string goes into the hole. Simple.
Another idea to consider with this toy is that I can control how many “trials” we will have in therapy. What do I mean by that? If you caught my post on Toys, Tab Systems and Visual Strategies, you will remember that we can use tabs to let kids know the expecation. Set out 5 of the stringing items and that is all the child has to string. If it is a particularly challenging day for a child, I might choose this option. This way the child can be successful and we can decrease frustration levels.
Ask your child, “Where does the peanut go?” (Answer: “On” or “On the string.”). Ask your child, “Do you want raisin or cereal,” while holding up those two pieces. By providing a choice you are teaching your child the name of each and providing an opportunity to imitate a word. If you ask a “Yes/No” question (ie. “Do you want a raisin?”), that is what you get; a “yes” or a “no”. Also, dependent upon the learner when you ask the question your verbal expectations might vary. For example, for the child who is just starting to imitate sounds, I might attempt to elicit just the initial sound within the word.
Remember, these are teaching moments so we may have to teach the expected language within an activity. Some kids learn spontaneously, some learn through direct teaching and many are a mix of both.
Or, as I mentioned in last week’s post, us older folks need younger peeps to remind us of old tricks! Pace Boards! I recently came across Learn With Adrienne and her videos on the use pace boards. I feel like I have been slacking, not remembering this strategy. This past week I used this visual with 80% of my kids. Check out Adrienne’s website if you would like to learn more from her or catch her sign language course.
Anywho… for one of my kids I put 4 dots on a cardboard strip. She usually answers in 1-2 word statements but is capable of more! With the pace board she was making 3-4 word sentences following only one model. One model only! Near the end of the structured task, (following teaching her the expectation) I removed the visual (the pace board). And, you know what…She was still using 3-4 word responses in that context. Remember! Fade the prompts as discussed here. And, keep in mind that visual prompts are easier to fade than verbal prompts.
If your child is using 1 word phrases then use 2 dots. For example, if your child says “milk”, you could point to the first dot and model “more”, move to the second dot and model “milk”. Basically, you are tapping the dots and saying “more milk”. Model the expected language for your child to encourage increasing the words per utterance. Us speech pathology folks call it language expansion. Check out this PDF from Super Duper Publications for ideas on expanding and extending language. For one of my little girls with Childhood Apraxia of Speech I used the pace board to work on 3 syllable words using ideas I discussed in Apraxia: One SLP’s Experience including backward chaining. This is another reason I love this toy! It contains 2-3 syllable words: cereal, pretzel, chocolate, peanut, and raisin.
How does your child learn? What types of toys does your child gravitate towards? There are a couple more concepts to think about with this toy. I have ideas but I want to hear from you. Can you think of any? Anymore ideas on the use of pace boards? Next week we will continue with another one of my favorite toys. And, soon I will be sharing a list of each Toys and Tips post with each toy listed for some holiday ideas! Come join me!