It’s not always easy to find fun and engaging stuttering therapy activities for your younger kids. Sometimes it’s hard for them to tolerate a lot of education tasks and understand the strategies and concepts you are trying to teach.
I’ve actually found that incorporating play activities into your stuttering therapy sessions to be super effective. However, you do want to be strategic about setting up your play and what you’ll be doing during that time. Just playing and winging it (which, heck, we’ve all done) is ok, but planned play is so much better.
When playing I usually want to be either educating the student or doing strategy modeling/imitation with the student. Here are a few of my favorite toys to use during fluency therapy and how I incorporate them.
1. Tool set
I got this adorable tool set from the Target Dollar Spot. It’s a perfect toy to use when introducing fluency strategies. Just like tools help us make things, there are also talking tools to help us change the timing and tension in our speech.
We make the different tools represent different strategies. And this toy pairs perfectly with my Fluency Tools Treatment Packet.
2. Toy cars
Toy cars or trains are great for helping students to understand bumpy vs. smooth speech. Have the car drive over some bumpy objects, then drive over some smooth objects. You can talk about how just like that, sometimes our speech sounds bumpy and sometimes it sounds smooth.
Cars also help when explaining timing strategies. We make the cars go super fast, then make the cars go really slow, then make them go at “just the right” speed. This gives kids a tangible way to understand that we don’t want to talk too fast, we don’t want to talk so slow we sound unnatural, but we want to aim for “just the right” speed.
I like using dolls and puppets to help explain the speech machine. They can point to the places on the doll to identify the lungs, trachea, vocal folds, mouth, nose, etc. It usually sparks some good conversation on the differences between a doll and our “real” speech mechanism.
Dolls and puppets are also good for role playing and modeling/imitation of different strategies. (“I can make my puppet say the word like this. Now you make yours say it the same way.”) Role play/pretend play different activities in which the student might have difficulty using dolls or little people.
Books (does this count as a toy?) are pretty much the catch-all for almost any therapy goal, and they’re definitely workable for fluency therapy too. If your student is a reader, you can use books to practice that pausing strategy. I like putting highlighter tape between words where pauses would naturally occur to help give students a guide.
If your student is not a reader, you can totally still use books. Grab your favorite picture book and have students label pictures while practicing their strategy or use modeling/imitation. Let students retell the story if they’re at the conversational level.
Finding a book with a great relatable story-line can also spark some great conversation about bullying, feelings, and emotional issues a student may have about their speech.
I like using balls when explaining tension strategies. You can grab a ball too hard, grab it too loose, or grab it just right. You can also throw it, roll it, and bounce it too hard, too soft, or just right. This is similar to the tension we hold in our speech machine when speaking. We don’t want to be too tense or unnaturally too loose when speaking.
I haven’t met a kid yet who didn’t like bubbles. It’s easy to use them to teach the full breath strategy. For this tension strategy you’re supposed to breathe in through the mouth and relax your throat and face before you speak.
With bubbles, they can breathe in through the mouth and practice relaxing their throat and face before they blow. We are aiming for nice gentle puffs of air here. This also works for pinwheel toys too!
You can seriously do SO many stuttering therapy activities with chalk. Check out this post to see how we played hopscotch! You can also outline the student’s body in chalk and have them draw their speech mechanism on it. (This works with bulletin board paper too!) Chalk is also great for drawing pictures of the topic representations they’re using.
If you’re unfamiliar about topic representations, here’s a little more about it. In grad school my fluency supervisor taught us how to have the students find a topic they are interested in, then use that topic to create representations of the different fluency vocabulary. (i.e. if the topic was basketball, dribble might represent bumpy speech, passing might represent smooth speech, etc.) This keeps the student more engaged and helps them develop a better understanding of the fluency vocabulary.
8. Toy Phone
Toy phones are so great for role playing different scenarios in which the student might have more emotional responses. You can practice ordering take out, calling a toy store and asking about a product, or even calling their grandma. This helps with desensitization and can voluntary stutter during these calls or practice their strategies.
The situations that you role play will depend on the student’s age and abilities, what pertains to them, and what situations they might be avoiding. It’s also good to have the student self-rate afterwards to get a feel of how they view themselves and their own speech.
Note: After role playing with the toy phones, you could also have them make actual phone calls.
9. Play food
Use pretend food to do some modeling/imitation with your younger kids. You can do some role playing and have them practice real world situations. These are great for generalization. Students can:
- pretend to order food from a restaurant
- make conversation with the waiter
- order from a drive through
- explain how to follow a recipe
- have a pretend cooking show
- prepare for a picnic
- SO much more!
Legos and blocks can be more of a structured task, in that there is usually an end goal. They are creating something specific, like a tower, a house, or castle.
One way to use blocks is to do some education activities and have students earn blocks for their reinforcement. I pull out my fluency task cards and they can earn a block after completing one card. The cards make those education tasks a little easier.
Another way you can use legos or blocks is for pacing. They can line up several blocks, then have them touch each block every time they say a word or syllable for pacing. It’s good when practicing that timed syllable technique. You can even use a pacing app or metronome alongside this strategy.
When working with my fluency students, it’s even better if I can get some parent involvement. I created this handout for my parents to help parents play intentionally with their child. It gives them little tips and suggestions on changing their speech and environment to create less stressors for the child at home.
You can grab that parent handout in my free resource library, if you’re signed up for my newsletter!
I hope some of these stuttering therapy activities help you! Let me know if you have a favorite toy to use in therapy. 🙂