Carrie's Favorite Games and Toys for SLPs (And How to Organize Them)!
Welcome to week 5 of our SLP Summer Organization Series! In case you missed any of our previous posts, we’ve already discussed the following:
- Week 1: Build Your “Speech in a Box” Core Materials Kit
- Week 2: Create Your Activity Binders
- Week 3: Organize Your Larger Materials
- Week 4: Must Have Manipulatives for SLPs
And this week, I’m sharing some of my favorite toys and games for speech-language pathologists! Let’s do this!!!!
Suggestion 1: Travel-Size Games
As you’ve probably guessed by now, I’m a big fan of using smaller materials for a number of reasons. One, they travel better. Two, they take up less room when room is scarce. And three, they leave us with less clutter.
My favorite way to save space is with travel-sized games. And I don’t always play them exactly as intended either. My goal is to help my client get in as many repetitions as possible. So, for example, if we’re playing Perfection, I don’t just hand the child all of the pieces and tell him to put them in. I have him practice his skill 5-10 times and then I give him one piece. He puts that in and then we do 5-10 more reps for the next one. Then, once they’re all in place, THAT’S when we turn on the timer and watch it pop.
These are a few of my favorite games (Amazon affiliate links below!):
I'm a fan of this one for a bunch of reasons but one is because it takes a lot of fine motor skills to grasp these little guys. And that's perfect for my children who are also working on fine motor with their OT. The OT will thank you. I make the child do several reps before putting in a piece. For younger children who don't really understand the whole 4-in-a-row thing, I just let them fill it up in whatever pretty pattern they want. I also might make them request a specific color each time to work on color concepts and using complete sentences.
The popping dice bubble is probably the most popular part of this game. Again, they must do several reps before taking their turn and for younger children, we just move our pieces around the board. None of this knocking people off and making people angry. I'm not all about that in my therapy room. I'm stressing my kids out enough as it is with just trying to get them to do their speech sounds!
Mini Magnetic Games
These little games pack a lot of variety into $15 (pricing at the time that I'm posting this)! This bundle will give you a bunch of games to play. Plus, they're cheap enough that when your clients inevitably lose too many pieces or break them, you can just toss them and get a new one. This variety pack is sure to have something for your older and younger clients.
I'm not going to lie. It's completely possible that I've never actually played this game. That's because I love the tiles so much for other things! Yes you can totally play this literacy game and get a ton out of it. But I particularly like pulling out the tiles and using them as visuals to help my clients break apart words, include all of the sounds, or work on phonological awareness. These things are super fun. And you can also just use them as a reinforcer by having the child pick a random letter after he does several reps and then see what words he can spell at the end of the session.
I LOVE this story-telling game and so do my kids! This is just a small tin full of story cards. Each one depicts a random item or event. There are a few different ways to play, but we just like to pull the cards out and tell a story about whatever random cards come up. This is a great one for working on skills in conversation. Or, if you just need it for a reinforcer, have the child do several reps and then pick a card with his eyes closed. Once he has several cards, he can string them together into a story (or you could tell the story for him).
Portable Bean Bag Toss
I literally just saw this while looking for the other links on Amazon and I want it! Do you have clients on your caseload that really need to move?? This bean bag toss is perfect AND it folds up super small so you can still store it. I'm always looking for more ways to get my clients moving during our sessions so I believe this one will be joining my roster.
Suggestion 2: Toys with Lots of Parts
OK, I know this one sounds a bit contrary to what I just said about saving space, but it really does help you get more reps in if you have toys with a lot of parts. That way, you can make the child do several reps in between getting each piece to the activity.
These are a few of my favorite toys (Amazon Affiliate Links Below):
This is the most commonly chosen activity in my therapy space. Kids LOVE building these marble tracks and watching the marbles race down them. I usually set up a base and then make my client do several reps before they get one piece of the track to put on. I usually let them pick, but if I have a child who takes forever to choose, she must close her eyes and pick at random (or I pick). After that, the child can choose each turn whether she wants a marble or a track (and I make them use their words to request it). If they choose a marble, we watch it go down and then I take it again so we can do the next set of reps.
Similar to the marble track, these are also super fun to build with and will allow you to get in many, many reps as you add one tile on each time. Sometimes we build towers, sometimes houses, and sometimes we just lay them in a row to make a road for our cars. Super fun! I'm linking below to the Amazon link for the Picasso Tiles because they are on sale at the time that I'm writing this, but the Magnetile brand is great too! Look around on Amazon and see which brand is doing a sale!
What little boy doesn't love trains?? Trains a great one because you can have them do reps to get a train track and then do more reps to get the train cars. This starter set will get you going but it's also compatible with all of the Thomas ones, as well as the Melissa and Doug ones. I'll also link to the coal mine set that my kids love. Something about that ramp and door make it super exciting!
Age-Appropriate Building Toys
Any sort of building toy works great for what we're going for. I love these magnetic balls and rods for older children, but this one is obviously not safe for little ones who mouth things. I'm also linking to a building set for younger children, as well. Or, hop on over to Amazon and search for age-appropriate building toys for whatever population you work with.
Suggestion 3: Artsy, Craftsy Activities
Next up are some great finds in the arts and crafts section. The goal here is to find something that is engaging but isn’t going to capture so much of your client’s focus that he can’t concentrate on his work. These can be great for conversational level as well, because you can talk about what you’re creating while remembering to use the target sound or skill.
These are a few of my favorite crafts (Amazon Affiliate Links Below):
If you haven't tried these yet, you must! They are a strange combination of yarn + wax that makes these bendy sticks that you can build with. Kids love them! You can either give them one at a time to build with as they do their reps, or just get them out and build together for a fun activity that is sure to spur some great conversation.
These paint dotters are super fun, as well! My clients love dotting them all over the place. You can use the pre-made coloring pages like in this kit or just give them a blank piece of paper and let them go crazy! You can also give them a worksheet of their sounds/words/targets and have them dot the ones they finish.
Even my little boys love popping these together and seeing what they can create! In case you didn't play with pop beads as a child like I did, these are simple little beads that have a hole on one end and a pokey bit on the other. You simply push the pokey bit into the hole and it stays. You can build jewelry, flowers, etc. Then, when you're done, you can un-pop them and start all over again. For some children, I make them repeat their sound before they can have another bead. For others, we just talk and work on conversational skills while building.
How to Organize Your Toys & Games:
So, once you have all of the toys and games you want, how do you organize it all?
The first thing I always do is to take everything out of its original packaging. This will save you space AND avoids that awkward point where the box is starting to fall apart but you don’t have something else ready to stick it in.
Once I have it out of its original packaging, I try to find something to store it in that won’t take up as much space but will hold all of the pieces. I also prefer these to be clear. When we start a therapy session, I will often ask my client to choose a game/activity from a set of choices. If the containers are clear, then they can see their choices without having to open everything. That’s key!
Here are a few of my favorite storage containers for storing my games and toys (Amazon affiliate links below):
Resealable Food Storage Bags
Simple, but effective! These resealable food storage bags are always my go-to! They come in all different sizes and they collapse flat so they won't take up any more space than the actual game/toy itself. The only thing I don't like about these is that they do fall apart more quickly. But, they are now starting to make these super cool silicone ones that last way longer. I'll link you to the cheapest ones of the disposables I've seen (Amazon Brand) and some fancy silicone ones as well.
Clear, Plastic Storage Boxes
These are great for the bigger stuff that you want to stack on your shelf. I prefer this to open baskets because you don't want a client running through and just dumping everything at once. These will last you a good long time and the clear, flip-top lid on these makes them perfect for what we do!
Zippered Toy Bags
These toy bags are also great for organizing your games and toys because they have a place for a label and they zip up. These might be a better fit for some of your squishier stuff or your stuff that is an irregular shape/size.
I hope you enjoyed seeing all of MY favorite things. Now show us yours!
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In the next post of our Summer Organization Series, we’re talking about how to organize your actual therapy space, whether that’s your room, closet, or car. Don’t miss it!
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