10 Repurposed Therapy Materials
As an SLP, I often struggle to come up with new materials to use in my lessons. I don’t want things to get stale from overuse, but I also don’t have the time to be constantly creating materials. So, in an effort to be more green (and also try to save money before the holiday season), I thought of some common and easy to find materials that can be reused in your therapy sessions. All of the items below are free, easy to find, and add a little creativity to help all of our different clients. If you’re a parent, this is an easy way to engage your child with some items you can find around the house.
Newspapers are one of the easiest things to find and among the most versatile. Newspapers can be used with older students or adults who are focusing on functional skills, such as looking up movie times or the weather. You can also use a newspaper to target summarizing, finding the main idea, inferencing, and predicting. I’ve used a newspaper to work on the concept of fact vs. opinion. They are useful for all sorts of language activities.
Cardboard is another material you might find lying around and can be reused for various purposes. You can make schedules, crafts, and visuals. Old cardboard book pages are perfect for mounting visuals and making them more durable. I worked with a student who needed a very sturdy visual schedule, so I took apart pages from an old cardboard book and covered them in construction paper. Next, I glued the visual on and wrapped the page in clear plastic paper. That worked nicely because the pages could withstand being tossed around. Sometimes I feel like a hoarder but I always save boxes, boards, and paper towel rolls because I know I will use them.
Old cell phone
Bringing in an old cell phone is a way to get kids interested. So many young children are into cell phones or any toy that looks like a phone. They can be used in pretend play or for speech/articulation sessions. I let my students say their target words into the phone to make a fun artic session. My older students work on social lessons and relating to their peers. A phone can be used in lessons which target appropriately making phone calls or texts.
Paper plates are another easy to find item which has many uses. They can be helpful when teaching spatial concepts and prepositions such as front, back, next to, etc. For these activities, the plate acts as a guide point (tell the student to put the sticker in front of the plate…) Plates can also be great for sorting and categories. For example, all of the big bears go on this plate and all of the small bears go on the other plate. Paper plates really come in handy for creating crafts.
A ball of any kind (koosh ball, beach ball)
A small ball is a great tool to have in your SLP toolbox. It can be used when teaching reciprocal conversation skills such as taking turns, listening, and asking others questions. I throw a koosh ball to my students and whoever has the ball is the only one who can talk. Any ball that is easy to write on (like a beach ball) is ideal for creating some sort of social game. The clinician can write questions on the ball and wherever the student’s hand touches is the question they have to answer. The game doesn’t just work for social skills; it can work for language as well. The clinician can write out different verbs and ask students to give the past tense version, or pronounce the word for articulation games.
I use whiteboards all the time. I have a small one I keep with me and I use the large classroom whiteboards when I can. The possibilities are really endless because you can quickly make many different visuals by hand as you go. I’ll often play games like hangman, which is a great way to work on language or vocabulary in groups. I’ve noticed that some kids love to keep score, which is a great way to liven up answering questions. I turn answering questions into a game where kids race to the whiteboard to write their answer. As you can imagine, some kids get way too hyper from this so modify as needed.
I like using curriculum material for a couple reasons; it lets me build skills necessary for learning in the classroom, it’s relative to the student’s life, and it helps me communicate with teachers. I check in with what they are working on in class and tell them where my students are having difficulty. Bonus: it’s a free therapy material. I go through books my students are reading in English class and work on language goals. With some students, I go through textbooks, which can be so dense, and help students with comprehension and note taking.
Taking kids outside is awesome for therapy. You’re in a new environment with tons of resources at your fingers! You can work on communication skills on the playground. I’ve made scavenger hunts for common things in nature (leaves, birds, grass, etc.). The kids have fun finding the items and you can embed your therapy targets in the activity. You could also do the same idea but find items for crafts. Leaves and pinecones can be turned into tons of fun crafts in the fall. Seasonal and weather vocabulary can be easily worked on by taking a trip outside.
Anything Left in your Basement
My basement is a treasure trove of therapy material. If you have old toys, stuffed animals, books and puzzles they can always be used in sessions. One of my co-workers makes story boxes to go along with the books they read. She takes a cardboard box, dresses it up in colored paper (this step is optional), and puts objects from the story inside. Depending on the students you see they could be sensory objects for kiddos on the spectrum or items from the story to work on labeling. Many of what can go into a story box can be found in your basement or storage. Things like stuffed animals, action figures, or any old toys can make reading a story more fun and engaging.
I did a unit on winter clothing last year and my students loved it. The students were on the spectrum and were much more motivated to label real items than picture cards. They also enjoyed touching all of the items. Lots of therapy goals can be targeted with clothing; ADL’s such as getting dressed, colors, and concepts of big/small or soft/hard.
What old items do you turn into therapy materials? Let us know! Sign up for our mailing list here to stay updated with our latest therapy tips, app announcements, and blog posts. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Pinterest, and like us on Facebook!