If you think that SLP’s have cool toys then go ahead and sneak into an Occupational Therapist’s cupboards, because it’s like a gold mine!
While we look for resources with our speech or language eyes, they see things with through a fine motor lens. What I love about an OT’s toys is that they typically keep tiny hands busy and have lots of little parts so that you can really push for multiple repetitions and use them seamlessly in groups.
I’ve got a list of 5 things that I use most often and they all came from rifling through an OT’s room – with permission of course 😉 I typically use them for articulation to get high repetitions but they are easily adapted to be a simple reinforcer activity for most therapy goals and are really versatile for all age groups.
LACING: I picked up these cute little lacing animals and was surprised at how much my student’s enjoyed using them. I either set articualtion goals (say x3 repetitions) or we roll a dice and let it decide. I always like to offer a bit of incentive for accuracy, so if my kids get 100% – or fix an error, they can thread an extra hole. There is the added bonus of some friendly competition about who can lace their animal first, or we use a timer and see who can get the furthest in their lacing without making an error. These are also great to use for working on prepositions – over, under, through, around etc.
DOT -TO- DOT: I use the cutest app for this, it’s called Connect the Dots for Kids and the lite version has access to 12 pictures. I quickly upgraded for a few extra dollars as it was a huge motivator for my kids. You can use either a stylus or your finger to connect the dots and because the pictures vary with 5-15 dots per page, it’s a great visual way to set the # of speech repetitions for your students. This can also be used as a reinforcer for any therapy goal and my kids get a big kick if I tell them to connect 3 dots because they used an irregular past tense verb in a sentence.
TENNIS BALL: You know, I’m really good at dragging out games so that I stick to 2-3 activities per session, and this is one of them. You’ve probably seen these tennis balls-turned-faces, where the tennis ball ‘eats’ things such as marbles, coins or beads. I have a wacky little collection of tennis ball heads that my kids get to choose. Give all of your students a little bowl and make sure that you have a big bag of marbles or something similar and edible (food erasers). I get my sounds ready, tell the child the number of repetitions I’m looking for, then drop a marble in their bowl. Once the kids have earned their marbles, the real competition begins and I set a range of mini challenges appropriate for their level such as use the target word correctly = eat 1 marble, say 5 different words correctly = eat an extra marble. First person to ‘eat’ all of their marbles wins! For a quick link to how to make these, check it out here… then search on Pinterest for cool faces 🙂
THREADING: Another common classroom and OT staple are beads. I place a pile in front of each student, have my words prepped and practice 5 repetitions per bead. If you work with kids, you know that any incentive to get more of something or beat someone is just so motivating! I usually keep a whiteboard with a list of ways to earn extra beads, such as getting 5/5 correct, using the word in a sentence or self-correcting.
KINETIC SAND: Kinetic sand is a big hit in my room and I find that it’s really calming for my kids. I love getting little tubs and filling them with sand and then having my big bag of marbles or small toys handy. When the child says their word/phrase/sentence correctly, they get to push down and ‘hide’ the marbles. When all the practice has been done, we swap tubs and see who can find the other person’s marbles first. The rule is that you pick a spot and push your finger down. If you feel a marble or toy, keep it. If you don’t, say your words and try again for another spot. This is a great excavating race that all kids love.
I’m sharing some of the best lacing and threading resources on the market as all the other things are pretty easy to put together. This Melissa and Doug set is lovely for a basic set of 5 pictures. It was the closest that I could find in price and style to the set that I have (which is from Kmart Australia).
However…. they also have an ‘ultimate’ alphabet set (26 images to lace) so that you can change things up all the time. If you have groups, then this set is perfect as you can always cycle through the images (Why didn’t I search Amazon first???).
True story, I bought my little girl a beading set when she was only 4 months old (I know, a little early)… and then take it into work to use with my kids 🙂 I always look at the the number of beads included so that if I use in groups everyone can have a decent amount of beads – so this set is like nine beads each for a group of 4.
For a jumbo bargain set, I found these below. Just note that they are foam and not wood, so they might not last as long… but what a deal!
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