Easy DIY Props for Play Based Speech Therapy

Do you use themes and play based therapy in your speech therapy sessions? 
Research shows that play based therapy IS effective when learning and working on language and social skills, which is why I try to center my speech therapy sessions, especially for younger students, around play.

If you are an SLP working with children, whether it be in private practice, outpatient, or a school setting, then these easy DIY props for play based speech therapy will work for you! In this post I'll explain how to create your own props to enhance your speech therapy sessions for FREE (or at least very cheap).

What is Play Based Therapy, and Why Does it Matter?

Play based therapy is an approach used by SLPs to target speech and language skills through the context of play. Play based therapy allows the child to be more engaged in therapy sessions since the play is based on their interests and is child lead (as much as possible). 

When you introduce skills through play, you are teaching, modeling, and practicing the target skills within a natural environment. This will enable the child to build on their skills as well as practice the skills in a wide variety of environments (therapy room, classroom, playground, home, babysitters house, etc.). Play also produces developmentally appropriate environments and activities for the child while working on a variety of skills. 

While play is fun and engaging, it is also purposeful. As an SLP you should carefully choose the language and skills to be addressed with the toys being used. This will ensure the target skills and language are present throughout the activity. Another added benefit to play based therapy is the ability to help develop social and emotional skills.

How to Make Your Props for Play Based Speech Therapy in Less Than 10 Minutes  

Sometimes as SLPs we get wrapped up in the newest toy that "everyone has to have" and forget that often the simpler the better. Watch this video to see how we quickly made simple toys out of a box and paper. 

Did you see how easy it was to create play props for working on speech and language skills within our theme? 

Here's how we made our props:

1) Find a good, sturdy box. Since I just bought class snacks we used the goldfish box. A sturdy box will allow you to recover the box multiple times throughout the year based on your themes.

2) Cut a large rectangle or square of paper in your desired color to cover the box.

3) Cover the box with the paper. There are several different ways to cover a box with an open side. (seriously...just google it to see what works best for you)

4) Add elements to the props. I drew the elements myself on the props in the video for privacy reasons, but this is a great way to get your students involved. Talk about the elements (ex. A school has windows. People look out the window. Do you see a window in the room? Where should we put the window on the school? What shape is the window?) and let the students take turns drawing the elements.

5) Play!!!!

Remember that the props don't have to look "perfect".

This month we are working on our back to school theme including rules, routines, and vocabulary. Since I also try to incorporate literacy into my themes we read a variety of back to school themed books. Two of our favorite books were "The Pigeon Has to Go To School" by Mo Willems and "Turkey Goes to School" by Wendi Silvano (book companion available here). After reading our books, the school and bus boxes were used to practice taking our fiends to school. We practiced following the rules and routines with our "friends" once the bus drop them off at school. We practiced the words "in", "go", "hurry", "drive", "get in", "get out", "out", etc. with the bus. We practiced our speech sounds with words related to the activity. We put our friends and the bus "in front" of the school, "behind" the school, "near" the school, "beside" the school. We practiced driving "far away" from the school. These are just some of the skills we practiced with our play.

If you need help with your themes, click here to check out themed units in my TPT store. I used elements from the Back To School Thematic Unit in addition to our play. 

3 Tips and Reminders for Implementing Props In Play Based Speech Therapy 

1. Make sure the play is purposeful. Think carefully about how to incorporate your target skills and what important vocabulary can be used over and over, naturally through play.
2. Make sure the child is engaged and having fun! This will help with attention as well as retention and carryover of the skills. Follow the child's lead!
3. Make sure the props you create and the toys you use are able to address a wide variety of skills!

Using props and play based therapy with your themes is pretty well guaranteed to bring joy and laughter to your therapy sessions! 

Comment below or DM @thespeechowl on IG and tell me....

What props have you created for your play based therapy and thematic units?
What goals will you be targeting with DIY props?

Happy creating!