5 EASY Speech Therapy Tools And Ideas To Try At Home
My youngest son, Jax, and I have been attending speech classes together since he turned two in March. I wanted to share some of the incredible (and super helpful) speech therapy tools and activities we have learned since being in therapy that are also super easy to do at home. We’ve been seeing some crazy good results, and I can’t believe how much Jax has already learned. It’s taken a lot of patience and consistency, but he’s just kept on climbing up the mountain of success and I couldn’t be prouder! We still have plenty of work to do, but it feels good to do everything I can to make sure he gets to where he needs to be before it’s time to start preschool. We’ve been through the ringer these last two years, but through all of our specialist appointments, evaluations, and classes, he is the happiest kid I know. A few of these exercises are also great for sensory processing disorder, as well. Here are some simple speech therapy tools and activities you can do to help your child improve their speech at home!
This post contains affiliate links at no cost to my readers for your convenience. All opinions are my own, and all products are those I personally recommend to help with your child’s speech therapy journey.
Sensory Bin With Toys
A sensory bin is a great way to play your way to learning, if that makes sense. Instead of holding up flash cards or toys to our little guy (from which he would immediately run in the complete opposite direction in a matter of .6897453 seconds), we have found that as long as he feels like he is playing instead of learning, he is essentially tricked into picking up information by doing some of the things he loves. Like playing in our sensory bin, for example! This is one of Jax’s favorite activities, and certainly one of my favorite speech therapy tools. For our sensory bin, we filled up a cheap container with large dry beans, threw in some shovels and cups, and placed a few of his favorite toys inside. See how we put our sensory bin together in my DIY Easy Sensory Bin post!
We take the lid off, and just start playing. First, we practice scooping beans with a cup or shovel into another cup. If he dumps the beans out of the cup, we exclaim, “UH OH!”
When he pours more beans in, we say, “More, more beans!” When he gets to the small toys he likes, like a car, we practice driving the car on top of the beans, and talk about how the car drives fast. “Car!” Jax will copy us by saying car, to which we will add a word, “Fast Car!”. And when we are all done with that activity, we close the container, and say “All done!” This type of repetition after each activity not only lets him know that, of course, we are done, but will become something he will repeat. If you have a sandbox in your backyard, that will work great for this kind of activity as well.
This goes without saying, but remember to get a container that has a sturdy lids that snaps on!
Jax responds to counting to 3. I think this started in speech class, but we implemented it at home and it’s been great for capturing his attention when his mind is in another place, and lengthening his attention span. I even use this counting method when I brush his teeth (because he has some oral aversion). Most of the time, I have to hold him down completely and gently squeeze his cheeks together to get the toothbrush into his mouth. I start brushing while he is protesting and count to three, taking the toothbrush out of his mouth. He stops crying when I reach 3, and he pays attention. I think this helps him understand what to expect. I can keep brushing as long as I count to three, and exit the toothrbush when I reach three. I keep going until all his teeth are brushed.
We also use this counting while we play. I will hold his hand and slightly bend my knees next to him like we are ready to take off. I will say, “1, 2, 3, GO!” We start running for about 5 grown up steps, and “Stop!” Continuing this activity again helps him learn what to expect, and also to count to three. Soon, he will count with me and we can expand our numbers up to 5, and then 10.
Implement Sign Language
Learning sign language at 2 was easier than I thought. Jaxson’s primary way of telling me what he wanted was to point at something and whine. Or just whine. His speech therapists recommended I start using some sign language, as it would give him that positive experience of communicating his needs as well as encouraging him to use his speech to further communicate. We were to practice “Please” and “More”.
Before I gave him anything (juice, milk, water, snacks, lunch, toys, socks, shoes, etc.) I would make him sign. With a toddler, the best way to start this out would be to physically take their hands and help them do the sign they need to do. To sign please, you take your hand and place it against your chest, and move it in a circle. With Jax, his therapists started him out with tapping on his chest with his hand.
So before my husband and I gave him anything, we would take his hand and do the sign for him, and then immediately reward him. After two or three weeks at it, he picked it up by himself and started signing! This was kind of a pain in the beginning, if you can imagine us doing this consistently for every. single. little. thing. But it paid off. Once he had please down, we practiced more.
Give Them Choices
Instead of asking your toddler, “Would you like some milk?”, try giving them a choice. “Would you like milk or water?” This helps them with their independence, and learning what different objects are called. Don’t hold the object away from them if they cannot/will not/do not say the object’s name they are pointing to, but encourage them to say it by pointing to your lips. In this example, if they pointed to the milk, set down the juice and still hold the milk. Make the ‘MMMM’ sound while you point to your lips for them to watch, and say ‘MMMMILK’. Then hand them the milk! Do this each time for each choice.
Giving a toddler as MUCH independence as you can will make them feel more empowered to make those choices. And if you can imagine what it’s like to be a two-year-old with so many feelings and opinions that you can’t effectively express to the adults around you – you’d start to understand why giving them little choices like water or milk for example would make them feel more independent. This sense of independence, or control, lessens their frustration as well.
Purchase A Doll House
A big part of helping your child with speech is talking about everything you’re doing as you’re doing it. If you are helping your toddler put on their shoes, tell them about it! ‘Okay, let’s put your shoes on – shoes go on our feet. Your shoes are on! Let’s go!’ An expansion on this would be to play together and talk about the actions you are playing out, and that’s where a doll house can come in handy.
If you’re a boy mom, I get the reservations you may or may not have. Typically, I wouldn’t even think to purchase a doll house for my boys. They are into dinosaurs, superheroes, and legos. Doll houses never seem to come up. In speech classes however, a doll house (or even a barn) is a very useful tool for therapy. My husband was not thrilled with the idea of giving our boys a doll house, but I talked it through with him and explained just how much it has been helping in our speech classes and he was fine after that. ‘As long as it’s helping him learn!’
When our speech teacher first brought out the house, I watched intently. She explained to me that this house was basically playing life. Jax immediately responded to this kind of engaging play.
We use our doll house to play life. We go ‘Up, up up’ the stairs, we flush the toilet, we cook dinner, and we even dance in the house. Thanks to the house, we’ve increased our word count by a few words over the course of a couple of weeks and are seeing steady improvement.
Practicing knocking on the door (‘Knock,knock!’), going up the stairs (‘Up, up, up’), sitting down and eating food (‘Mmmmm, nom nom nom’), etc. can help with speech. Jax and I will imitate the mommy kissing the baby on the head, and then I will physically kiss him on the forehead immediately after.
So those are five easy to do activities at home that can help tremendously with speech in a toddler (did I meantion how easy they are?!). My advice is to be very consistent when trying new things, but also be gentle and encouraging. This isnt the time to discipline just because they aren’t speaking, or you aren’t seeing any results. It took us several (I think 3) weeks to see an improvement with Jax simply because he refused to go along. He was learning things, but he wasn’t showing us that he was. If your toddler refuses to sign, keep encouraging them to do so. They will get to the point that they will want something very much and will do the sign. For us, Jax wanted a piece of candy his older brother was enjoying, and he came right up to me and signed please.
Patience is hardest when trying to teach your toddler to communicate effectively, and speech may be something your child needs help with for years to come. And that’s okay! Trust me when I say you are not alone! I’ve met so many parents through our speech classes and groups who face many different health issues, troubles, and struggles that can make it seem like any one of us is alone in this patience-testing journey to getting our children to communicate with us.
I try to remind myself several times a day that as frustrated as I am with not being able to communicate, he is just as frustrated in not being able to talk to me as well. He has needs, wants, and feelings that he just can’t get across to me. This causes more tantrums and other hard-to-understand behaviors because there’s a wall he can’t get over. The best thing I can do is try, and be patient while he is learning and accomplishing his goals (as slowly as that may feel).
Thank you so much for reading!
What are some speech therapy related activities you utilize at home with your kids? Tell me in the comments below!