Thursday, August 1, 2013

What's in your bag?

I recently began working with preschoolers again.  My district cut my job to half time, and with a tough job market, I kept that position, but needed, and wanted, to do more.  It's been about 7 years since I worked the little ones, and I had so much fun with them. I am excited to pick up some new preschoolers in the fall.  

So, what's in my speech bag?  When I used to go home-to-home, I carried so many games and toys and papers and....  My car was like a roving toy store!

Do you know this game (Am I dating myself here?)?  Waaaay back when I first started working, this was one of my favorite games for the little ones.  This was not a good game to travel with, since with every bump, the ducks would start quacking.  With no on/off switch or volume control button, it was not a great game for travel.  If we had iphones, youtube, etc, it would have been fun to record the faces of people as they rolled up next to me with their windows open, hearing ducks quacking.  One man actually tried to gain my attention by throwing something at my car to ask why I had ducks in my trunk.  

Many years later, this is not a game I will be bringing into the home, especially since it looks like they are $40 on Amazon now!  Yikes!  Image courtesy of Amazon, here is the link if you don't know the game, I am not an Amazon affiliate.

If you are just starting out or getting back into home visits, and don't have a budget for a lot of games, or other awesome speech products by various suppliers, here are my top three inexpensive items:

3.  Playdough:  Personally, I dislike the smell of the real stuff, so I make my own, and it is so much less expensive.  Here is an easy recipe that I use all of the time; it can last for months when you put it into a plastic container or storage bag.
Playdough recipe: 

3 cups flour
1.5 cups salt
6 tsp. cream of tarter
3 tbsp. oil
3 cups water

Pour all ingredients into a large pot. Stir constantly over medium heat until a dough ball forms by pulling away from the sides. Knead dough until the texture matches play dough, typically takes about 2 to 5 minutes.

To add colors, you can add some food coloring to the water before mixing it with the dry ingredients. Another way to add color (and scent!) is to mix a Kool Aid packet into the water before adding to the dry ingredients. It looks and smells so good!

Playdough is wonderful for improving following directions, identifying basic concepts, increasing MLU, comprehension and use of action words, and describing. Add some cookie cutters, and you have a themed activity for every season or holiday.

2. Kid-friendly magazines: I don't throw away my magazines anymore. I love using the pictures to discuss facial expressions and body language, the products being advertised, etc. I use the pictures and ads for vocabulary, categories, describing, sorting, pronouns, verbs, expanding sentences, and identifying objects. If there are some wonderful large pictures, I cut them out, glue them onto cardboard, and cut them into puzzle pieces.

1. Bubbles: Everyone likes bubbles! I use bubbles, not only for reward or motivation, but for helping with puckering, lip rounding, showing examples of smooth airflow, vocabulary, action and prepositions.... Bubbles also make a great art activity! Have you ever made bubble prints? It's on my to-do list for my kids this week, and hopefully I will get a good picture to share, but basically, you need:

1. 4 ounce plastic cups
2. large bottle of bubbles (I use Miracle bubbles because they seem to make bubbles better than other brands.)
3. Food coloring, in assorted colors
4. Bubble wands and stras
5. Heavy paper, such as construction paper or card stock

To prepare:

I do this outdoors, especially when at a student's house.  Tape the paper to something vertical, like a tree, or to the sidewalk or driveway.  Add drops of food coloring to the bottom of the cup, then pour in bubble solution.  Adjust the colors as necessary.  

Have the child practice lip rounding and blowing before using the colored bubbles.  When ready, have him/her stand in front of (or next to if paper is on the ground) the paper and blow bubbles onto the paper.  The pattern from the bubbles touching and popping is amazing, and kids are so excited doing this project.  

If your students have difficulty using bubble wands, you can adapt this by having the student use a straw and blow into the cup.  When the bubbles come above the top of the cup, gently lay the paper on top of it.  You still get a beautiful pattern, and can still work on the same skills.  

These things can always be found in my speech bag, along with others to address my goals, like articulation cards, language targets, etc.  But to keep kids on task and interested, I always have these on hand.  

So what's in your speech bag?


  1. LOL, every once in awhile a therapist will come in excited that she has found that duck game. So loud.

  2. When I was in my 20s, I loved it. Still a great game, but I think it's one of those games that once you get burned out on it, you never want to see/hear it again, lol!

  3. I have the Lucky Ducks game and don't use it too often because I hate the loud quacking! I found it at a local garage sale! Even though I don't like it, the kids love it (so I have to hide it sometimes).

  4. Great post, Jessica!! I have Lucky Ducks, too- who knew it was such a valuable item!??? Thanks for the recipe for playdoh- I hate the smell, too!!!