School Therapy September 1, 2021

By Emily Marshall MS, CCC-SLP

Play-Based Therapy Materials to Stock Up on for Your Clinical Fellowship

The key to acquiring therapy materials and toys for early childhood or school-age assignment is to find things that can be used in a variety of ways and for a variety of goals. 

When gathering therapy supplies for your upcoming school-based CF, thrift stores and yard sales are great places to check out. Buying previously owned toys, board games, books, etc. is a huge money saver when you’re fresh out of grad school (or anytime, really). Read on to learn about some exciting therapy material suggestions we have for you to try out in your practice! 

1. Toy vehicles, animals, characters, dolls, and food are perfect for promoting imaginary/pretend play and offer a variety of vocabulary and language use! Be sure to include some familiar characters that will be motivating for your students (e.g., superheroes, popular kids’ shows, Disney people, etc.), plus some unfamiliar or random ones to facilitate the opportunity for questions, varying play, and new vocabulary.  

2. Finger/hand puppets or stuffed animals: having a motivating puppet in your toolbox is always helpful! You can hold it up near your face if you have a child who is working on increasing eye contact, or if you need to draw attention to your face for visual cues. If the student also has a puppet, you can engage in various turn-taking activities. Puppets are also powerful counseling tools for students of many ages.  

3. A standing mirror for your desk or on the go is very handy for articulation therapy; some students need to watch themselves producing a sound correctly while practicing. Mirrors are also awesome for practicing facial expressions, or for working on imitating. 

4. Books: like toys, having a variety of books is important. For younger students, lift-the-flap books are fantastic for working on prepositions, while the Don’t Push the Button series presents a fun way to practice following directions! Older elementary students love the series Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library.

5. Playdoh is fun at any age and offers the opportunity for endless creations and language use. If your student isn’t very interested in playdoh, you can use it in other ways such as hiding tiny toy animals in the playdoh and describing what you find! Older students are often motivated by playdoh smash mats for speech-language practice.  

6. Head back to the thrift stores and stock up on some board games! Some, like Kerplunk, are simply great reinforcers for the end of the session; others like Hedbanz are more specific to language goals like asking/answering questions, describing, categorizing, etc. Some other favorites to stock up on include Don’t Break the Ice and Pop the Pig for younger students, and Apples to Apples for older ones!  

7. Large dice and large whiteboard dice (usually found at dollar stores) are great for increasing students’ motivation to complete articulation drills; for example, you can write a phoneme on each side of the whiteboard die and have the student produce a target word of the phonemes the die lands on. The numbered die provides endless possibilities for games and variations within your therapy session.  

8. Mr./Mrs. Potato Head is a simple and fun way to first introduce communication temptations into your sessions, or when first modeling it for caregivers. You can model strategies like active waiting and withholding/hiding an item to encourage your student to request the desired item(s) in some way.  

9. Plastic eggs are motivating items to incorporate into your therapy sessions for students of several ages due to the surprise factor with opening the eggs. For students who benefit from more movement, you can make a scavenger hunt in the room or hallway with the eggs to work on following directions, understanding/using prepositions, and more! You can hide a variety of things in the eggs as well to target many goals!  

10. Mini whiteboards are useful for students of all ages, especially during group therapy - you can give one to each student and have them write silly words or sentences for their peers to practice or play Pictionary and other fun describing games!  

We hope that these suggestions will help you to add a more playful and engaging element to your CF practice—interactivity is an amazing way to have fun and foster progress with your little ones! 

Are you a new grad SLP who is looking to start your Clinical Fellowship? Learn more about the Med Travelers CF Program and explore opportunities nationwide.