This is the second in a series about how to make your child’s speech sound home practice easier for both of you. In Part 1, I discussed setting up your practice area for success. Today, in part 2, I will describe how to choose a good game or toy to use for motivation.
Your child is learning to say a new sound, maybe on its own, or in a word or phrase. If this was easy for him*, then he’d be doing it already! But he needs help to learn this new skill, which is most likely quite tricky. In my experience, kids don’t tend to persist in difficult tasks out of the goodness of their heart – they need to be coerced and bribed to do it!
This is where your therapist uses games and toys – to reward your child for correct productions of speech sound targets. If he can say it correctly, he gets a turn. If he produces the sound incorrectly, he pays a social penalty, by missing his turn. But she* will help him to correct it so he can get the reward the next time. This reward cycle helps keep your child interested in learning the new speech sound, and provides motivation for it to eventually become an automatic part of his talking.
Have a look at the games that your speech therapist is using as a reward system with your child. They will most probably fit the following criteria:
Do you know how small your speechie’s toy budget is?! This is good news for you, as the toys that we pick tend to be easily found in toy stores, department stores and discount stores. That way we can replace them easily when they wear out from all the love!
If it’s not exciting, then your child will not want to play it, especially not practice difficult speech sounds at the same time!
This is most likely a toy that you don’t have at home. Or if it is, then your therapist may be using it in a different way than expected. The novelty factor helps keep your child interested. You can do this at home by saving specific games to only be used for speech practice – keeping them in the ‘speech box‘ I talked about last week.
Lots of Pieces
Lots of pieces equals lots of practice. A game like tic tac toe can be good as a reward (child gets a turn each time he makes the target sound correctly), but it’s over too quickly. Your therapist will probably choose a game that produces 10-20 turns before it is finished, to get better mileage out of the activity.
Controlled by the Adult
Your child has to ‘buy’ his turn by participating in the speech practice – and getting the target sound correct. Choosing toys that can be controlled by the adult are vital to this idea – if your child can help himself then he’s not going to do any practice! This can be as simple as holding on to the dice between turns, or keeping all the pieces in the box on your lap to give to your child as rewards.
Easily packed away
Good Games For Speech Practice
I have compiled a page of speech practice toys in our Amazon shop which you can look through. And, I’ve collated a Reinforcement & Rewards Board on the play talk learn pinterest page, full of great ideas from other people’s websites. But here are some tried and true games that I have used regularly in speech therapy at home and in clinic:
- Jigsaw puzzles – if your child likes them – not all children do. Hang on to the box and give your child a piece of the puzzle for teach target sound they produce correctly. Don’t make the puzzle too difficult, otherwise you’re asking them to do two tricky things at once (speech + problem solving!)
- Kerplunk – set up the game, and then explain to your child that they get to pull out a stick for each target sound they produce correctly. If they get one wrong, then you get a turn! Or, you can be really efficient and use the set-up process for practice as well: make them ‘buy’ each of the sticks and balls with their target sound, help them set the game up, and then more practice to pull them out as you play the game!
- Railway sets – keep all of the track pieces and the carriages in a box and give each piece to your child as he says his target words. Then reward him with some free play time with the finished track!
- Connect 4 – your child gets a turn for each of the target sounds he says correctly.
- Beetle - your child gets a spin for each of the targets he produces correctly. Twister works in the same way!
- Trouble (also called Frustration)- this has been a definite favourite in my sessions. Your child gets a turn with the bubble-dice for each target produced correctly. Or, for kids who need LOTS of practice, they have to say the target the number of times the dice says before they move their pieces.
- Toppletree – I haven’t played this one, but it looks like lots of fun! Same thing as the others – say the target correctly, get a turn!
Do you have any favourite games that you would recommend to use for practice at home? I’m always looking for recommendations of good games and toys to add to our collection!
* I’ve used ‘he’ as your child, and ‘she’ as your speechie again, just to make it easier to read! If your child is a girl and your speechie is a man, the advice still applies!
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PPS – keep a look out for Part 3: Excitement!