Therapy fads come and go. There was the play dough smash revolution, the dauber reign, the sensory bin sensation and now mini erasers and trinkets are finding their way inside places they shouldn’t be (like your shoes and lunchboxes).
But minimal pairs are here to stay.
It’s a therapy constant that unless research says otherwise, is not going away. But here’s the thing: you don’t need to jump on a therapy fad to still have fun with minimal pairs. Sure, when I’m in the mood I’ll grab out my carefully sorted Dinky Doodads… but that’s not everyday life for me as a therapist. And it doesn’t really translate for parents either.
So I’m going to share my list of everyday minimal pair activities using things that MOST speech rooms and families have in their homes. It’s the concept of using what you have instead of making something different.
Stopping of ‘f’
Fill-pill: This is so easy and flexible, because your activity is just to ‘fill’ something up. Fill a bucket, a jar, a bowl or a cup. Anything, just fill it. With what, you ask? With anything! Pom poms, beads, mini erasers (because they’re still on-trend and I know you have them) or blocks. Just fill it. My kids are kinda amazed by tongs and tweezers so it always helps to have them. If your child says “fill”, they get to fill the bucket – but if they say “pill” you can draw attention to the card and act all confused “Pill the bucket? That doesn’t make sense! I know that you can fill a bucket. Try again”. Sometimes if they say ‘pill’ I give them the pill card with a nonchalant air and then I have my turn and say the sentence correctly just so I CAN FILL THE BUCKET. The look in my student’s eyes seems to say well hold up now lady, I want a turn! This is why the target word HAS to be motivating.
Fed-bed: Puppets, toys and figurines are great for this – you can also use feed-bead for the same activity, but with a different tense. Hand puppets have got to be a favourite of mine as you can gobble up food! Don’t have one, well everyone wears socks! My little girl loves her bear and equally loves feeding her bear. Use what your kids love and they will engage.
Stopping of ‘sh’
Share-tear: Thinking flexibly again, this can be anything that you can distribute – have a picnic or tea party (Velcro food that can be cut in half is the BEST for this), share game pieces or turns doing something. It doesn’t have to be too fancy, just remember that if you’re playing something, your kids will want to join you. Have a laugh and gather up all the pieces and joke that you’re not going to ‘share’ unless they ask you to share.
Stopping of ‘s’:
Sack-tack: Grab a bag (which we will call a ‘sack’), put things inside and your kids can reach inside the sack to pull out whatever mysterious objects you have placed in there. It’s fun to create a little anticipation before they pull the object out, so I ask questions like “is the thing in the sack soft or hard?“, or “do you think there is food in your sack?”. For a word level idea I might say “Do you want the tack, or to pull something out of the sack?”… and we all know what their answer SHOULD be!
Now you WILL need minimal pairs. You can draw the pictures yourself, use them from an app, incorporate physical objects (e.g. an actual ‘tack’ or a toy sized ‘bed’) or have printed cards. I prefer something physical so that I can ‘give’ the error word to the child. I have cards included in my Teach Phonology Stopping and Stopping Phonology Feeding Mouths sets if you need something bright and punchy!
If you’d like me to share more of these everyday ideas for other phonological processes make sure to put your requests into the comments or get in touch 🙂