Must Have Manipulatives for Speech-Language Professionals

Welcome to week 4 of our SLP Summer Organization Series!  In case you missed any of our previous posts, we’ve already discussed the following:

And this week, we’re all about your manipulatives.  When I say manipulatives, I’m talking about all of the accessories that you use to help your clients achieve maximum success during your sessions.  We’re talking about mirrors, tongue depressors, timers, counters, visuals, etc.  So let’s jump in!

Mission 4:

Your manipulatives are the tools that help you get the results you are looking for.  And the better your manipulatives, the better your outcome.  Today, I’m going to share some of my favorite manipulatives with you so you can see what I use.  Then, we’ll discuss how you can organize those a little better.

Manipulatives for Better Speech Sounds:

There are a lot of things you can use to help your client position their mouth and articulators correctly for proper speech sound production.  But the most effective tools are often the simplest.  Below are a few links to some of the products we love.  These are amazon affiliate links so if you choose to purchase through my links, I do get a small commission.  Thanks in advance if you do choose to purchase through my link!

In addition to the manipulatives below, there are other super fancy speech sound facilitation devices that have been created over the years.  These are devices that guarantee easier production and articulator placement for your clients.  I personally have used Speech Buddies which is a stick that you place in the child’s mouth.  The child pushes his tongue against a specific spot on the stick and it gets their mouth in the correct position to say the sound.  I found that these worked with some of my clients but not with others.  So in general, these can be helpful tools but don’t expect them to be a magic fix for every child you work with.  And these simple tools can be just as effective when used correctly.


This is a must have for children who lack awareness and need to see what they're doing. It can also be great for working on emotions and body language.

Tongue Depressors

We REALLY love these light-up tongue depressors by Throat Scope but regular tongue depressors work too! There are a ton of different ways to help children produce speech sounds using tongue depressors. You can touch specific spots where you want the child to place his tongue or help guide the tongue and articulators into specific positions.

Coffee Stirrers

If you find that those tongue depressors are a bit too big to get great placement, try coffee stirrers instead! These can function similarly to those Speech Buddy tools I was mentioning before because they are small enough that they can be in the child's mouth while he/she produces the sound. For example, you can touch the tip of a coffee stirrer up to the alveolar ridge and have the child push his tongue forward along the roof of the mouth until he touches it. Then, have him say the sound while he keeps his tongue there (and you keep the coffee stirrer there as well).

Manipulatives for Making Things More Fun:

Manipulatives can help us do the therapy but they can also help us motivate and encourage our clients, as well!  Check out these fun manipulatives that will add some excitement to your sessions without adding a bunch of bulk to your bag.  (The below links are amazon affiliate links, I’ll get a small commission if you choose to purchase through my link).

Dry Erase Sentence Strips

These are great multi-use tools because you can literally draw anything you want on them. You can use them to help children increase utterance length by writing a simple sentence structure with a few stick-figures, such as by writing "I want ____". You can draw a quick pacing board or a "stop" and "go" symbol for easy AAC. You can write longer sentences and have your clients edit for grammar. Or you can write character names on them and have your clients act out a story they just heard.

You can click the link below to buy these from Amazon, or we have a set of them in our "Speech-in-a-Kit Visuals" bundle that you can print off, laminate, and use right away.

Dry Erase Dice

Similar to the dry erase strips, these can be used for pretty much anything as well, but since they are dice, they make it way more fun! Working on sounds in syllables? Write a vowel on each side and have the child roll to see which vowel he'll pair his consonant with. Or, write yoga poses on each side and challenge the child to practice his skill while holding that pose. You can also draw pictures on these to help children practice vocab or write words with their target speech sounds. So many possibilities! I found one of these at the dollar store but you can also buy them from Amazon with our affiliate link:


Bubbles have a certain kind of magic that will get a kid to do things you'd never dreamed possible! I think these are great for just about any activity with young children. We use them to request more or to comment on what we're doing ("pop, blow"). We can talk about big and little and wet. Or, we can just have our client say their word/practice their skill a certain number of times in order to get more bubbles. I consider bubbles a must-have in my bag. I personally like either the "Gazillions" brand bubbles (because the wand has more holes so you have less chance of miss-fires) or the no-spill kind. I'll throw the amazon affiliate links in here if you need them:

Clicker Counters

These are great for data collection AND for helping children catch their mistakes. If you are collecting data, grab two clickers, one for correct and one for incorrect. Click away while your client is practicing. To work on awareness, tell the child that you'll click every time you hear an incorrect production. The audible click will serve as a reminder! Plus, it is somehow less offensive to many children for the clicker to tell them they were wrong than to hear us correct them over and over again.

Manipulatives for Better Behavior:

My other favorite use for manipulatives is to improve behavior.  Many of our children act out because they don’t understand what is expected of them or what is coming up.  Sometimes, they just need some tools to help them express themselves effectively.  Your sessions can run more smoothly when you use behavior-enhancing manipulatives like these:

Speech Rules

Have a quick set of rules that you follow in your speech sessions. Review these at the beginning of each session and refer back as needed. You can grab ours in the "Speech-in-a-Box Labels and Visuals" bundle, or create your own!

Behavioral Support Visuals

Make sure to have plenty of visual aids that will help your clients regulate their behavior. Our favorites are a mood thermometer, a first/then board, a "shh" cue, a "sit down" cue, and a break card. You can get ours in the "Speech-in-a-Box Labels and Visuals" bundle or create your own!

Visual Timers

Let's admit it, our clients aren't always thrilled to be with us. Sometimes, a visual timer can help them see exactly how much longer they have to work before they get to play. I love this simple one from Amazon but you can also use a sand timer, as well. Here's one of my Amazon affiliate links if you want to purchase through us and support our business!

How to Organize Your Manipulatives:

So, once you have all of your manipulatives put together, how do you organize it all?  

Well, if you’ve been following our SLP Summer Organization Series, you’ll notice that I’ve been storing my manipulatives at the top of this super awesome “Speech-in-a-Box” Kit.  I’m adding the Amazon affiliate link here to the one I love, because it is awesome.  But there are other ways to organize your manipulatives, as well.  Here are Amazon Affiliate links for a few other organization systems that I’ve used and loved over the years.

Creative Options Grab 'n Go

This is literally my favorite organization device of all time! It has three smaller cases inside the larger one and a storage compartment on top. This is the case that I've created my labels for (see the links below) and it's the one that holds all of my artic cards and language cards. I like the inside cases because they are tall enough to accommodate the 2x2 cards. Many others are too short.

Shower Caddy Tote

I love using a tall shower caddy tote for organizing my manipulatives. I especially love this one because it has a larger section on one side that is great for my pictures or larger items. Plus it has the smaller ones on the other side which are great for tongue depressors and coffee stirrers.

Spinning Craft Tote

Another favorite of mine has been this style of spinning craft tote. I love that it is tall enough that my taller items won't fall out and it has a ton of pockets. I use the center pocket for larger items and tuck other things into the smaller pockets around the outside.

Now you have a bunch of great ideas for must-have manipulatives and how to store them.  We hope that you have enjoyed this post and we ask that you keep the fun going by sharing with us!

Share it With Us!  

Once you get this done, we’d love to see it!  Share it on your favorite social media channel and tag us so we can see to!  Everyone’s manipulatives will be a little different, so it’s SO helpful to be able to see how others are doing it, as well!


Next Week: 

In the next post of our Summer Organization Series, we’re talking about how to organize all of your reinforcers, games, toys, and books!   It’s going to be a great one so don’t miss it!

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