I once saw a t-shirt that said “I get paid to play board games.” Well, we all know that we do WAY more than that, but there is no question that games keep the kids engaged in therapy. The challenge is always making sure that the game doesn’t take up valuable therapy time. Because I need to get as many repetitions as possible in a session, I am always looking for games that are super quick but also engaging. In previous posts, I have described the stick game (an all-time favorite that’s dirt cheap and easy to make), commercially-available Feed the Kitty and Cookie Crumble, and the sound-specific games I’ve made based on old childhood favorites, Jump! and Square Off! Pop-Up Pirate is another game that appeals even to my 4th graders. Lots of SLPs have blogged about the creative ways to use Ned’s Head, Guess Who, and Jenga — google or check Pinterest for those ideas. And, of course, we all know about Go Fish and Memory games with therapy cards. A fun twist on using those cards is described in my post about “Hide the Sticker.”
A recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics states that there is not much proof that tablet-based toys and games benefit brain development in toddlers, and concludes that hands-on toys like blocks and puzzles are far more beneficial for hand-eye coordination, problem-solving, creativity, and interactive play with adults and peers. While there is certainly a place in therapy for some of the great speech/language apps, such as those by SmartyEars, I’ve come to realize that some of our students today, who are of the “digital generation,” don’t even know how to play with games and toys that we all grew up with. And that got me to thinking about how to use other free or cheap toys and games to build brain power, concentration, social skills, and language. Here are some suggestions, based on games and activities I’ve used in therapy. Of course, you will want to modify the games to build language and social skills and meet IEP goals and work in AAC for those with low verbal skills.
- Checkers, Chinese Checkers, Connect 4, Battleship — all require some strategy
- Pick up Sticks (a lot quieter than Jenga!) — good for patience and hand-eye coordination
- Games like Cootie, Don’t Break the Ice, and Operation — also good for hand-eye coordination
- LEGOs, Duplos, magnetic shapes, plastic gears — all good for cooperative creating, requesting, describing
- Yahtzee! — scorekeeping and math
- Card games like Hearts, Crazy Eights, and Uno –lots of interaction with peers
- Jigsaw puzzles — have a 100 piece puzzle out on a table for kids to work on — lots of language as they look for and describe pieces.
- For kiddos who need to build auditory skills and following directions, favorite old games like Red Light/Green Light, Simon Says, and Mother May I? will get them listening and moving, making these good warm-up or end-of-session reward activities.
- Toss Across or a DYI beanbag toss game will also incorporate movement in therapy.
What oldies but goodies do you use in therapy??