Speech-Language therapy is crucial for youngsters just starting out, and fortunately, opportunities are everywhere. While there are tools on the market developed specifically for SLP professionals, games kids love and want to play should not be overlooked. Improvement starts with motivation, and what better motivation is there than games kids already want to play?
If your child is attracted to a popular game, use it to your advantage. Kids of all ages love playing games like Angry Birds, Etch-A-Sketch, and Draw Something. The key to merging fun play with practice is communication. Here are some ideas:
1. Vocabulary lists: For action games like Toy Story 3, Angry Birds or JewelQuest, make a vocabulary list with related words that focus on a single sound. A “B” list for Angry Birds might include bomb, blue, birds, boom, bill, boards, and big.
2. Incorporate phonetic sounds: If your child is playing with a doodle or drawing game, suggest a theme, like “Old MacDonald’s Farm” and ask the child to draw animals and identify them with name and sounds
3. Engage the imagination: Kids love to put themselves in the story. Use role-playing games to stimulate the imagination by making up characters and assigning the names, personalities, and stories. Good apps for this include Virtual Pet apps and The Sims.
4. Involve friends: Get a friend or relative on Skype and play a word game. Any game will do. Imaginary I Spy is fun, or simply say a word and have the child say whatever comes to mind. Knock-knock jokes are always popular with the young grade school crowd, and adding the coolness factor of face time with an iPad or smartphone makes simple, pleasurable communications a fun tool.
5. Food apps: Fruit Ninja is a great little app that lets kids slice and dice familiar fruits. Add SLP value by asking the child to identify colors and fruit names. The object of Cupcakes is to bake sweet virtual treats with plenty of options to choose from. More Pizza is another great choice.
6. Vocabulary builders: Word games like Hangman for kids and Super Why are fun and engaging, and require little imagination to add value – just have the child sound out letters and repeat the words on the screen.
Thinking outside the box is often the answer to reaching kids with special needs. By engaging their imaginations and revving up the fun factor, every SLP has the opportunity to create a truly special therapy experience for every child. Ask the child what he likes to do and find a way to turn his interests into valid learning opportunities.