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What Does Play Based Therapy Look Like?

Play-based speech and language therapy creates meaningful opportunities for learning and communication - learn how with Expansion Speech Therapy!

Most outpatient settings have sterile rooms with a table and chairs, perfect for looking at worksheets, reading stories, or teaching a brand-new skill. Sound familiar? However, for younger and older kiddos, therapists need to ensure it is FUN so a child can be engaged in a playful manner. What better way than in their natural environment (home, school, or community) or with a preferred toy? The therapists at Expansion Speech Therapy excel at connecting with children by getting to know them, and using whatever is fun for your child to help them learn and grow.


Play-based speech therapy is when a speech language pathologist (SLP) can create communication opportunities within a child-led activity. If your child loves their pretend kitchen, your SLP can embed receptive and expressive language skills without them even knowing they are working! 


To target receptive language or understanding of language, a play based SLP might ask your child, “Can you please hand me the apple then the banana?” to work on following multiple step directions. They may pretend to make soup with play food and ask your child to hand them a spoon, a pot, a bowl, and/or a food item to see if they understand and can identify a variety of vocabulary words during functional play. Every child has a different goal in speech therapy and through play the Expansion Speech Therapy team can have fun and make progress with your child.


To target expressive language or use of language, a play based SLP can target a variety of goals including but not limited to: increasing sentence length (i.e., using 2–3 word phrases versus only using 1 word at a time), imitating novel words, assisting your child to independently use a variety of nouns and verbs, and/or teaching them how to ask questions, such as, “Can I please have the bread?”. While playing with the play kitchen and your child requests “apple” their SLP may model “apple please” to help your child increase their sentence length. If your child wanted to make a cake in the play kitchen, the SLP may show them how to mix, pour, wash, or bake their food items and have them request if they want to “wash the cake” or “bake the cake”. The options are endless with play! 


If your little one demonstrates difficulty with motor speech or articulation, your SLP can practice producing consonant blends, such as, “br-eak” the egg or “fr-y” the food. If their goal was to produce or articulate the sound /s/, they would teach them how to make the /s/ sound correctly and then focus on words and toys that contain the /s/ sound with the play kitchen as sink, soup, some, sour, salt, etc. 


Play-based speech and language therapy creates meaningful opportunities for learning and communication. Remember, play based intervention is not meant to be time-consuming and you do not need to run to Target right away to buy a play kitchen if you don’t have one. Create these meaningful opportunities using the items you already have. Some of our favorite toys include old cardboard boxes (hello Amazon!), cars, blocks, toy racetrack, playdough, stuffed animals, water play, bubbles, baby dolls, crayons and paper, and Halloween costumes!  Whatever your child’s preferred toy of the day (or hour) is, it can be incorporated, to increase their language skills. By using motivational toys and activities that interest your child they will make therapeutic gains, enjoy therapy, and build social connections with their peers, family members, and therapists.   


Reach out to Expansion Speech Therapy with any questions or to schedule your child’s evaluation today! Located at 1035 Virginia Drive, Suite 140, Fort Washington they offer services both on-site or in your home.

Expansion Speech Therapy, LLC is a pediatric speech therapy practice that offers personalized treatment to both children and their family. Individualized intervention is their expertise and family involvement in therapy is vital to children's growth and success. They work with families using their child centered team approach. They work with you to expand your child’s communication, feeding, and play skills - with a little help them, and a lot of love and support. Expansion Speech Therapy can’t wait to be a part of your child's journey!