Friday, November 28, 2014

12 Essential Preschool Toys For Your Speech-Language ToolBox 2014

List created by Ricki Block, MS,CCC-SLP
Previous owner of Ariel’s Child for 22 years – a specialty toy store for school supplies, toys and materials for children with special needs and speech pathologist for 38 years.
Your kids will have so much fun playing and learning they won’t realize they are working on their speech sounds and language concepts!     Listed below are some of my students’ favorite toys. They maintain their interest and they don’t even realize they are working.  Each of these toys can be used  to work on language skills or articulation and especially helpful when compiling a speech-language sample.  They improve their ability to learn to respond to Wh questions, increase mean length of utterance and/or initiate pragmatic verbal turn-taking skills, to make requests, greet, comment and label . Before the activity I  write down key words or phrases to target while the child is playing. Many of these items I carried in my store for years and I still use today!  Click on the title and it will link you to  Visit my website at to connect to my TPT store and Pinterest site.  There are lots and lots of fabulous resources.
1.     Body Parts & Clothing
Mr.& Mrs. Potato Head ($5.00 ea) and Magnet Dress up (boy-12.99, girls-17.19)are staple tools  and there are many ways you can use them to expand speech and language skills   Teach body parts, colors, basic concepts( top, bottom, on, under), pronouns (he has, she has, his, her) , possession (mine, yours)  

2.     Animals
 The  Battat Farm Set is durable (33.99 )  and I would suggest getting additional Farm Animals (7.49 US Toy) and Wild Animals (7.70 US Toy). It increases the skills to teach, e.g. matching the same animals, concepts of more, less, all, NOT, counting.    Animal sounds are a great place to start with little ones learning CV & VC combos, e.g. moo, baa. 


3.     Pretend Play Rooms of House, Friends & Family
 The doll house is for girls AND BOYS. Boys love to pretend play too.  The  Melissa & Doug Fold & Go Dollhouse (35.48)  is durable and mobile and it folds up for easy storage or portability. I bought the Fisher Price Fold & Go Doll House on e-bay because like the lightweight feature of the plastic dollhouse.  I purchased a family (KidKraft) additional furniture (Le Toy Van Deluxe Starter Furniture Set $45.55) and Fisher Price outdoor playground( 19.22).  My students who are easily distracted can maintain their attention with the doll house. This is the perfect situation to work on following directions too – 1 step, 2 step, location words, and work on critical elements e.g. big blue chair.)  I have my list of words in advance to target and am ready with paper and pen to get a speech & language sample of phrases and/or speech sounds.


4.     Cause & Effect
Wind up trains (12) 10.45 Fun Express, Push and Go Toys Kavaya 7.75  Emergency Vehicles Toysmith 12.80
Teach “Sabatoge” in a fun way – when child can’t figure out how to make the toy go they can be encouraged to request “help or go”, engage in eye contact and interact with the adult.

      5.  Vehicles
One of my most utilized toys in therapy has been trains, cars and trucks for boys AND GIRLS. I made the mistake once of only offering a doll to a little girl  a long time ago- the mother proceeded to inform me that she liked to play with her vehicles and did not like dolls. Never assume!  Viking City road set ( 19.29).Melissa and Doug Train set 22.91  Duplo My First Creative Car Building Set 10552( 19.99) and PlayGo My City Car Park (25.85). 

     6. Pretend Play  Provider
Another favorite -  playing with baby dolls, especially if there is a baby brother or sister in the family.   Here are the accessories  which I like using for encouraging basic sentence structures, e.g. agent+action+object- I feeding baby, I brushing hair, etc. (Mommy & Me Doll Collection - $14.99)      Choose a dolls that do not require batteries . Two dolls are even better to engage in verbal turn-taking with a peer or adult.  I bought my dolls at the Dollar Store believe it or not. Add a Battat medical kit (17.69) to the mix and watch the language take off.  Include a favorite stuffed animal and you now have a vet kit too!


         7.     Food
 When my little ones see the food coming their eyes light up.  We set the table for mealtime and often have the dolls out so we can feed them too. Teach food categories – breakfast, lunch, dinner, hot foods, cold foods, dessert, fruit, vegetables, etc.  I also made sure I purchased food sets that have food I can use for final consonant deletion and with multisyllables, e.g. celery, strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes and use with one of my pacing boards from TPT.  (Step 2 101 food pieces 24.57 , Learning Resources Little Sprouts Breakfast  16.26 and Pretend and Play Sliceable velcro fruits and vegies 13.77 are a few of my favorites. I found some great deals on e-bay too.)

      8. Household
The dishes and pots go hand in hand with the food. It complements the whole learning experience. Include a tablecloth and have a “Teddy Bear Picnic.” Educational Insights Dishes  11.99  and Pots & Pans 13.99 are colorful and durable.   

       9.     Greetings
 Teach greetings with Hi and Bye. Social skills/pretend play: Your child can use the play phone to “practice  social speech and language skills and “talk” to mommy, daddy, friends, staff, etc.  Grab yourself another play phone, and have a conversation.   This is the basic foundation for turn taking!  The microphone is another tool to encourage children to talk and sing.  I am an advocate of singing songs to emphasize prosody and inflection.  Most of my sessions include a song or a rhyme!

          10.        Balls
Big balls, little balls, hard balls, soft balls, colored balls light up balls, bouncy balls. Concepts of in, on, off, through, up, down, next to, in front, behind, top, bottom (while using the balls in different activities and with other items like basketball hoops, baskets, tunnels, cups, boxes, etc.) Engage in turn-taking by using words to express request for an action, e.g. roll ball, throw, catch, kick, bounce. This requires awareness on many levels:  1-Watch your friend  2-facial expressions, gestures) 3- Wait patiently for your turn to   4-put hands out to Catch the ball.  Light up molecule ball 5.38 Play Visions, Knobby balls 8” (5) 7.99, Melissa & Doug Playground Ball 6.99  Ed Insights Shape Beanbags  14.94

11.  Puzzles
Chunky puzzles have a dual purpose – use as a puzzle or use during a pretend play activity.  These are durable wood animal shapes which can be used to sort animal categories, respond to “Where live” questions, “Which animal lives in zoo?”,  use for teaching location words, e.g. put cow on the barn.   Use with other animals you are playing with, include the pets when playing with the doll house or use as props when playing with the balls or bean bags.

       12.           Playdough

I use playdough as a tool to work on the child’s IEP objective and as a reinforcer. The goals are endless, but to name a few , e.g. basic sentence patterns (I am, I made a color item , Can I have?, turn-taking, speech sounds – SH, CH (push, make fish, sharks, choo choo),  K, G (cut, make cookies, K, get, got, green), F (fork, knife, fish. face, 4,5)  I laminated a place setting board and face template so the child has a mat to play on.    I have collected many playdough items over the years, e.g. rollers, stamps, small cookie cutters, scissors.   I just bought a new kit from Play-Doh and added it to my collection -    Play-Doh: Toolin' Around Playset (14.99-I bought my set at Kohl's  for $10  using discounts.  I also use Model Magic (19.81) - add gems, pipe cleaners, beads and then paint.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

13+ Best Speech Games & Reinforcers

 List created by Ricki Block, MS,CCC-SLP

Previous owner of Ariel’s Child for 22 years – a specialty toy store for school supplies, toys and materials for children with special needs

Listed below are some of my students’ favorite motivational activities. They maintain their interest and they don’t even realize they are working.  Each of these items can be used as a game to work on language skills or articulation.  Depending on the student, I may use picture cards to collect data for minimum of 10 trials and then use game as reinforcer. I  find key words or phrases to target while the child is playing. Many of these items I carried in my store for years and I still use today!  Click on the title and it will link you to

Ned’s Head is a huge “feely box.”  It has gross objects to find in his head.  I add my own objects too.  When I pull Ned out of the box kids’ eyes open wide – it’s a wow factor. Great for working on pronouns, He has, I am, I got, this is, your turn, my turn. Play a describing game too. Kids pull out an object and give 2 or 3 clues.

Fishing games are a classic. This happens to be magnetic which is even better. Kids can fish and then put in a “pond” (use a coffee can-wrap with blue paper – kids will love the sound of the fish dropping in to the can.) You can hide fish around the room and kids get to “find” them.  Great for working on irregular past, e.g. I caught ,I found. Work on articulation too – K (caught, green, catch, crab), SH (fish, shark, ocean)   F (fish, find, found)
3.Feed the Animals  29.95                               Nuby 3-D monster snack keeper  4.60  
Another favorite . Student gets to put a banana, peanut or carrot in the animal mouths.  Reinforce “Who” questions – e.g. Who gets the banana?  The snack keeper is a fun place for kids to put a picture card or small objects to “eat.”


 4.  Frog Hoppers  9.28 
I have been using frog hoppers for many years as a reinforce.  It has motivated many of my kids to learnsounds- e.g. blends (frog, blue, green) , J (jump), G (I go). The frogs come in a plastic bucket- perfect for teaching location words e.g. on, off, in, out, up, next to. 

5. Think Fun Zingo  17.99
Kids get a kick out of pushing out the tiles which makes a clicking sound.  They can match pictures on their card.  I scope the boards in advance to concentrate on articulation.  It is especially useful for final consonant deletion.   Nice first game for teaching verbal turn-taking words, e.g. my turn, your turn.

Bowling captures the attention of the active child. I like to tape pics of key pictures to the pin. Child says words on pins knocked down. This is one of numerous types of bowling sets.  

7. Monkeying Around  12.27

Wonderful companion to 5 Monkeys sitting in tree….along comes Mr. crocodile you can’t catch me. Great activity for blends, e.g. tree, green, blue, SNAP, crocodile.  The kids carefully put the monkeys on the tree which is strategically attached with a magnet.  It’s works as an enticing reward.

Kids are intrigued by keys and doors, so this toy is a real hit. It includes 12 different shapes. It also includes a set of keys to release the shapes from the sorting chamber and the sorting house. You can also hide small objects or pictures behind the doors too.

9.     Sneaky Snacky Squirrel  15.79
I recently discovered this game as I observed an SLP colleague playing it with her student. I went online that night and bought it! It is sooo cute.  Spin the spinner, squeeze the matching colored acorn with your Squirrel Squeezers, and place it into your log.   It’s a great game to have in your tool box for S blends, e.g. sneaky, snacky, squirrel, spin, snatch
10. Stacking/Nesting Cups   5.99 & Building Toys

You can stack & sequence size, build towers, hide different fun toys like small shapes or toys under-in the cups  and play the “where is it?”  and following directions (1+ step directions starting with simple give me,  put in the cup or put the little red cup on the big blue cup) .  Magformers have square & triangle shapes – fun way to work on SH -shape and TR-triangle sounds.
11. Art Supplies
 dot paint  6-pack 14.99, Markers, Crayons, Paper, glue, stickers, scissors –Crayola ultimate case with easel 13.71  ,  Melissa and Doug stamp sets 6.99
Art activities are often used as a process which creates an end product which the child gets to take home.  Some of my favorites with dot paint-e.g. colors, P sd-paint, follow directions.  Stamps- e.g. ST sd-stamp, art kit-e.g. K-cut (scissors), G-glue

This is an oldie but goodie. It is outrageously expensive on ($149!!)The best place to shop for Cranium Cariboo is on ebay.  You can purchase a used game for as low as $19.99.  I bought my game on ebay and all pieces were intact.  It is one of my students’ favorite games.  It has endless possibilities and can be tied in to many goals. I have used it, e.g. categories, action words(open, shut, find ), location (in, out) 
13. Bubbles
Turtle bubbles 2.99   Bubble bear (one hand)6.82 Butterfly bubbles 6.99  No-pop 9.86/doz
Bubbles are the signature of an SLP.  Not only is it one of the best reinforcers can teach many concepts, especially labial sounds, (e.g. pop, bubble, up, more, wow, my turn, big,  blow), concepts, counting.

Have fun shopping!!