Ball poppers are a versatile toy and fun way to elicit language in speech therapy! You can use them to target many language goals, they are highly motivating and engaging, low cost, and can be used with a wide age range.
Poppers are a simple toy that when squeezed, a foam ball shoots out of its mouth. It comes in many fun designs and mini versions! You can find them on Amazon and in toy stores. I have discovered the Hog Wild brand to be much more reliable when it comes to the balls popping compared to cheaper brands.
TIP: The more firm you place the ball in the mouth of the popper, the harder it will be to squeeze and the farther it will go. This makes it easily adaptable for different ages.
TIP: The mini versions come on a keychain and the ball is attached to the popper with a string. I prefer the larger versions but I enjoy having both to work on basic concepts, such as big versus little.
WAYS TO USE BALL POPPERS IN LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT
Ball poppers make excellent reinforcers. They are motivating and a quick reward so you can easily get back to working on those articulation sounds! I’ve also used it as a reinforcer by taping drill cards to the wall and having the child use the popper it hit a card to practice.
Target “where” concepts (e.g. on, in, under, behind, next to, etc). Do this by either placing the ball popper somewhere and asking “where is the penguin?” or squeeze the popper and discuss where the ball went (e.g. the ball is under the chair.)
Use the ball popper to demonstrate and teach different types of verbs. For example, walk the penguin across the table and model the action word “walk” or ask “what is the penguin doing?” or “what did the penguin do?”.
CAUSE AND EFFECT
This is a simple cause/effect toy that is always a hit. Read more about cause/effect and why it’s a critical aspect of language development.
Since this toy is engaging, it works perfectly for kids who are working on joint attention. Wait for the child to look at you before popping the ball.
REQUESTING AND TURN TAKING
Once cause/effect and joint attention are established, you can use the popper to work on requesting and turn taking. Have the child request a turn (either verbally or nonverbally) and target pragmatics by taking turns.
Have you used ball poppers in therapy or your classroom? What other ways have you incorporated them into your sessions?
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