Wind up toys are an item that every pediatric SLP should have in their toolbox! It’s a versatile, inexpensive toy that kids love! There are so many ways I use these toys and am constantly finding new ways to implement them into my speech therapy sessions.
I’ve listed the main ways I use them in a loose order of development.
This means shared attention through eye contact, pointing, or other means of communication. Joint attention is the very beginning stages of communication and emerges around 9 months of age. Wind up toys are a perfect toy to teach this milestone because they are engaging! Wind up the toy in the visual field of the child and let it go! Look from the toy to the child and back again, point to the toy, clap your hands, and make exclamations.
CAUSE & EFFECT
Cause & effect is also a critical beginning stage of language development. A child needs to realize their actions have an effect on their environment. A child’s desire to communicate comes from the knowledge that their actions, or words, cause a change. They need to understand this relationship before they begin communicating verbally or nonverbally. You can read more about cause and effect here with more toy ideas. Wind up toys work well for this concept because they have a clear cause (winding up) and effect (movement once let go).
Most little hands can’t wind up the toys themselves. This is every SLP’s dream! It requires the child to engage with you and ask for help (non-verbally or verbally.) Keep in mind, non-verbal requests are requests! The child may reach for the toy, hand you the toy, or use a sign. Accept these requests if this is the child’s developmental level.
Wind up toys are an interactive way to teach core vocabulary. Requests fall into this category as well: “more”, “go”, “please”, “again”, “help”, “me”, “my turn”. I use a lot of fill in the blank, “ready, set…” “go!” In addition to requests, teach describing or commenting. For example, what the wind up toy is (dog), the color of the toy, or adjectives such as “fast/slow” (depending on how tightly you wind the toy, it will go different speeds).
Use wind up toys when teaching basic 1-step directions: “give me”, “sit down”. You can even do more complex directions for older kids. For example: “wind up the toy and put it on the floor”, “find the dog and give it to me”.
Since wind up toys do something, it is easy to work on action words. Target different verb tenses: present (hop), present progressive (hopping), and past tense (hopped). You can expand these sentences to work on sentence formation (The bunny is hopping.)
I use wind up toys to work on prepositions a ton because they are easy to put in various positional places in the room. Then we get a fun moment to watch them go so it feels less like drill work! Place the wind-up toy “on” the table, “in” the box, “under” the chair, “next to” the book, “behind” the picture frame, etc.
Some reinforcers take forever…even when they shouldn’t! Wind up toys are a reward that you know will be quick so you can get back to work. This type of reward can be applied in many situations: one-on-one therapy, group therapy, and any articulation or language goal. I’ve lined up articulation cards before and placed a wind-up toy on every 5th one or so. Then the child does their drill practice and gets to do the wind-up toy once they reach that card.
I hope some of these ideas are helpful!
You can find wind up toys in most stores – Amazon, Target, Walmart, Walgreens…
Do you use wind up toys in speech therapy? What other ways do you utilize them?
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