Minimal Pairs Therapy for kids who need to move


This is the high-intensity wiggle bottom kid. The child who cannot sit in their chair for 30 minutes 5 minutes. The one who needs to move around. You know exactly who I am talking about because you are thinking of them right now.

And hey, wiggly kids are awesome because I find that my energy levels pick up too. So instead of keeping things at the table, we are going to incorporate minimal pairs therapy into a series of activities that get your students up and moving BUT engaging them in practice at the same time!

HAVE LOTS OF DIFFERENT THINGS TO THROW

A really simple way to get started is to throw things. Now I know what you are thinking, but we are talking controlled throwing.

I simply scatter my minimal pair cards on the floor (I will keep the pairs together) and throw objects at them. Whatever it lands on (or near to keep things moving) is what we will practice. USE mini bean bags, ring toss, small soft toys, lids (e.g. from milk cartons), pom poms or frisbees.

It’s also fun to get VISUAL with minimal pairs. I have a serious collection of little things in multiples (read this blog post on what I’m collecting) because I can get a lot of practice in. Using containers has got to be the simplest way:

  1. I stick my minimal pair cards onto the containers and we practice the two words. You then throw your object in for each practice attempt.
  2. For auditory discrimination, I’ll have the student listen to my productions and put (using tongs or tweezers) or throw an object into the correct container of the word that I am saying.
  3. When it’s the child’s turn to practice, to really emphasize the ‘contrast’ piece in therapy, they can only put an object in the container of the word they say. So if they meant to say “lime-slime”, but actually say “lime-lime”, I’ll draw their attention to the fact and they put TWO things in the ‘lime’ container. We then might make observations like “hmmm… you have lots of pom-poms in the lime container, you’re really good at saying that word! But we only have four in the slime container. Let’s see if we can get some more in there”.
  4. Lastly, I have to share a trial-and-error tip: If you put the minimal pair cards on the BACK of the container, it acts as a rebound like in basketball and the child is more likely to get things IN there!

USE WHOLE BODY MOVEMENT

Sometimes simply standing up is not enough, no, you have to move that whole body. Sticking minimal pair cards on the walls around the room is super rewarding for these fellas. Sometimes I’ll hide them around the room, or they have to go from one side of the room to the other saying their pair…

I might get a bit cheeky and not let them ‘cross’ to the other side if they don’t say that word correctly. Kids also love when I pull out a fly swatter or my punching hand (below) to hit the sounds. I find that these activities work well even for my most reluctant talkers!

My last tip for my wonderfully wiggly kids is plain old jumping. Here are a few simple ways to incorporate it into your session:

  1. Lay the minimal pair cards around the room and have the child jump from pair to pair, saying and collecting the cards.
  2. Lay out colorful circles in a cool pattern and have a game where they have to get to ‘the end’. My kids get so excited by these circles and love to jump on them. I might leave them on a circle to practice their pairs if they say a word incorrectly and this can work really well to motivate them to jump ahead to the next circle.
  3. Set up a little obstacle course for them to crawl through, jump over, slide under things to say and keep their cards.

Are you looking for some Minimal Pair cards to use for a range of common phonological processes? I have a whole section (sometimes within other fun activities) in my TpT store, so update your visuals along with these ideas!

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8 Comments

  • Where did you purchase the Minimal Pairs Bins (one is Pink and one is Red)? They are the ones that resemble miniature Yrash Bins with an open button at the bottom in the front of the bins.

    Reply
    • Hi Crystal, I found them at one of my local dollar stores called Hot Bargain. They were about $3 each and very fun!

      Reply
  • These are great ideas for those busy bees. One of my little ones had so much jumping on squares yesterday and he didn’t even realize he was working on his speech ?

    Reply
  • Hi there, I am a preschool teacher and am wondering whether this is something I could work on with my group through movement and incidental reinforcement as I have several children from just 4 to nearly 5, who commonly show they aren’t aware of these endings. Or is this too young and I should not bother? I am also interested in the minimal pairs approach, which my speechies don’t appear to use. Is it a bit controversial? Thanks for an interesting take on what can be pretty boring for kids and adults. 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Louise,

      Firstly, the minimal pairs approach is one of the most researched and well-known approaches to treat children who have patterns of errors. I mostly work with 3-5-year-olds and found that these activities suit many children this age to keep them engaged, however every child is different!

      Reply
  • Hi Rebecca do you have any, one even, good on-line zoom activity for minimal pairs that I could use with a shared screen? Something fun that could be used versatile with lots of sounds? would so appreciate one or two ideas, many thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Sonia,
      Have you tried my Interactive Minimal Pair Boom Cards? I have a free Th-F substitution version that you can try and see if you like the style! It’s located in my TpT store.

      Reply

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Hi, I'm Rebecca.
I encourage SLPs to feel more confident treating speech sound disorders, and make faster progress with their students.

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