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Articulation Therapy, Language Therapy, Little Friends, Toy Reviews and Uses

How to Create and Use Surprise Eggs for an Instant and Engaging Speech Therapy Activity

Photo Sep 17, 8 26 53 PM

 

One of the first toys I put together as a clinical fellow (a copy of something my incredible coworker owns) was a set of surprise eggs. I am not exaggerating when I say the day these little eggs came into my life, my job got easier and my world got happier. I’m talking critter clinic and ball popper levels of GOODNESS here, people. It is instant-therapy and so engaging!

I’m going to walk you through why they are so wonderful to have on-hand, tips on putting together your own set, and how I like to use them. I promise to be brief- we’ve all got stuff to do.

 

WHY THEY ARE AWESOME

Each egg is its own mini activity with a clear beginning and end- which I LOVE. It is enormously helpful for keeping little people’s attention because you can move through it quickly. It also helps reduce behaviors because they soon learn the expectation that the toy is here, and then it’s gone, then another one comes, and that’s just how it is. Even the simple visual of each egg going into an “all done bin” one at a time can be helpful.

Surprise eggs also lend themselves SO EASILY to creating verbal routines (my favorites are below in the “How I Use Them” section). They can also be easily adapted as an activity for infants and preschoolers alike. I have even had some older kids show interest! Depending on what you fill them with, you can use these for just about anyone. Personally, I never change out the objects inside because it would just take too much time, but that would absolutely be an option to adapt them to different goals and age groups.

 

HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN

Word to the wise- invest in quality eggs. I purchased my first set from Target around Easter time and they have held up beautifully! When I needed more, I tried to find some cheap ones on Amazon- half of them were cracked and the other half didn’t close properly. Don’t do it! Spend the big bucks.

You can fill the eggs with  just about anything! My favorites are wind-ups and other interactive toys you can find at places like Michaels and Party City. Things that light up, bounce, spin, and squish are perfect for providing plenty of language opportunities!

I also store them in a clear tub that latches so it easy for children to request what color they would like next without making it to easy for it to be a free-for-all. I store most of my toys this way.

 

HOW I USE THEM IN THERAPY

  • Verbal Routines: knock knock knock open, shake shake shake open, telling the toys hi/bye as you take them out/in, and (of course) READY SET GO!!
  • Wh Questions – what is it, what is it doing, what color do you want
  • SO MANY VERBS AND ADJECTIVES AND NOUNS!
  • -Gross Motor Imitation- knocking on the egg, shaking the egg, waving hi/bye to the toys
  • -Functional Play- do we know how to make the tiny car drive? or the little dinosaur eat your hair? (weird, but fun)
  • Joint Attention- optimal opportunities for eye contact and social referencing!
  • Bonus OT Tip- a 2 year old child should be able to open these eggs- if not, a referral is warranted!

 

I am so excited for you to try this activity! I truly have used it almost every day since I made my first set during my CFY years ago. If you make your own- tag me in your picture so I can see! I love hearing from you!

Have FUN, Speechy People!

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For Parents, Little Friends

One Speech Therapist’s Ideas for Giving THE BEST Baby Gifts for Speech, Language, and Feeding Development

I am going to be an aunt! (Again!)

This will be my first niece and my first niece/nephew since beginning my career as an SLP! Lemme tell ya. I. went. to. town. on her baby shower gifts.

I had so much fun shopping for her and wanted to pass along a few gift ideas for those of you about to welcome a new little nugget into the world! Here is what I bought for my sweet niece:

 

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Let’s break it down!

 

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Farm Animals and Bath Toys

Bath time is such a fun way to spend focused time on language. Farm animals are some of my favorite toys for my youngest patients for so many reasons! You can use them to work on vocabulary, colors, verbs, and silly animal sounds. I particularly like animal sounds because they provide such an easy syllable shape (CVCV or consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel) for babies to imitate. They also typically contain early developing phonemes. (A good rule-of-thumb for what speech sounds are easiest to produce- the further forward in your mouth a sound happens, the easier it is to imitate because it’s easier to see! Think: “moomoo” “baabaa”!)

 

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Cause And Effect Toys

Work on early play skills and joint attention with toys similar to this! Anything with a button that teaches the baby “if I do ‘this’, then ‘that’ happens!” Bonus: cause and effect toys are sure to make that kiddo laugh and laugh! It’s always funny when adults pretend to be startled!

 

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Teething Toys

If you read my previous blog post then you know how strongly I feel about babies learning to mouth! The pacifier on the left is unique because it has a bumpy texture to it- which I love for giving baby a variety of sensory input. The necklace in the middle is a stylish way for the baby to have access to a clean teether, even on-the-go. There are so many cute styles of teething jewelry these days! On the right, we have a practice tooth brush. It’s never too early to start practicing so your child doesn’t have an aversion when teeth start coming in.

 

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Food Toys

You can use play food to work on vocabulary, joint attention, and functional play routines. Your baby will love feeding you as you make silly “omnomnom” sounds! You can use foods to work on turn-taking as well and perhaps you can even get some imitation of “mmmmm” or eating sounds.

I chose this particular set of play food because of the variety in texture. Not only will this help baby explore their sensory world but it provides a great opportunity for language! Here we have hard, soft, crinkly, shiny, and so much more!

 

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Books

ALL THE BOOKS! I chose this one because it was repetitive, has great language opportunities with its touch-and-feel pages, and it’s a board book. Books books books. You really can’t go wrong. A few of my favorites are Brown Bear, Hop on Pop, 5 Little Monkeys, and Are You My Mother. It is so important to our kiddos language development that we read to them from a young age.

 

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Fruit Feeder

I bring these to every baby shower I go to. I love this for safely exploring new flavors from an early age. These are also featured in here my mouthing blog post. It is so important for babies to experience a variety of flavors in the world so that when the time comes to transition to solid foods, they are ready!

 

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An ADORABLE OUTFIT!

This has nothing to do with speech therapy. It’s just precious and 100% necessary.

 

I hope this post gives you some ideas the next time you’re buying a baby gift! The only other items I didn’t buy for my niece that I would also recommend would be some jumbo knob puzzles for fine motor development, a fill-and-spill toy (these target another great early play skill), a munchkin 360 cup (better for oral motor development than a sippy cup), and an amazing parenting book called Parenting With Love and Logic, whose principles have helped me in my own therapy room.

 

Happy shopping and congrats to the expecting families! Such a blessing!

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Feeding, For Parents, Little Friends

Why Babies Need to Mouth and How We Can Encourage Them to Continue

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“Did your child mouth as an infant?”

I ask this question all the time to the parents of kiddos with severe speech delays, picky eating habits, and other oral motor deficits.
More often than not, the answer is “not very much” or a flat out “no.”

Sounds like a dream, right? A baby who isn’t liable to choke on any little piece of who-knows-what lying on the floor? Jackpot!?

F A L S E

Why Mouthing Is Important:

Mouthing helps babies explore their world from a sensory and oral motor standpoint. They are learning about textures, tastes, and temperatures that will provide them with a solid foundation to move on from purees to solid foods (get it?) and avoid a picky eating rut. Additionally, they will begin to move their tongue and jaw in new, fun, and interesting ways. These movements will later develop into a mature chewing pattern that will allow them to eat a healthy variety of solid foods and help them produce lovely consonant sounds. As if all that wasn’t enough reason to encourage mouthing… it also helps the baby’s gag reflex move from the front to the back of their mouths.

Mouthing starts with the rooting reflex. This reflex is innate from birth and allows an infant to turn and attempt to suckle anything  that touches its face. The rooting reflex begins to diminish around the age of 4 months. At this same time, babies begin to gain the ability to bring their hands to their mouth. This is the opening of our mouthing window.

While it may be extremely convenient to not fear for your child’s safety due to the little babe putting ev.ery.thing. in his or her mouth… it may bite you later.

So what can we do?

  1. Provide lots of safe toys to mouth and gnaw on. You may even go as far as modeling what to do with these objects. That’s correct, adult reading this. I want you to put baby toys in your mouth. Lick and chew and move them around. Let that baby watch what to do.
  2. Make it a game. Think “puppy dog” and be silly so baby laugh and think its a fun game. Maybe they’ll be more willing to join in.
  3. Add some flavor. Try dipping an easy-to-wash toy in a juice or favorite puree to increase interest for the child.
  4. Make it cold. Place a toy in the freezer and see if it makes it more enjoyable. Again, we’re thinking about increasing sensory information.
  5. Provide texture. (sensory sensory sensory) We want bumpy toys. Soft toys. Squishy toys. ALL the toys! Bonus points for the language opportunities here.
  6. When your baby explores (safe) objects with their mouth, give praise. Make it a pleasurable experience and they are more likely to repeat their actions.

 

 

Some great options for mouthing can be found at your local retailers:

 

The Boon PULP Silicone Teething Feeder allows you to place a variety of flavors for your baby to safely explore and enjoy. Perhaps a juicy piece of watermelon or a frozen peeled grape? Yum!

 

 

 

A cute teething necklace like this one by BEBE by Me is another great option – you can’t lose it!

 

 

 

This nuby Banana NanaNubs gum massager is another adorable way to get your baby mouthing and ready for tooth-brushing. Here is the texture we’re looking for!

 

 


Perhaps my favorite is a good ol’ fashioned hard munchable. The key here, and this is very important, is that this is something the baby CANNOT chew or break off yet. The purpose at this point is only for sensory and oral motor exploration. Celery sticks work great too!

 

 

A few things to remember…

We never want to force, but we do want to encourage. A cry or a cold shoulder today could be a timid attempt to mouth tomorrow. Keep exposing the child to mouthing and be patient. Keep an eye out for little signs that they are becoming interested and try again soon.

If you are a parent reading this, it is always a good idea to reach out to a local Speech Language Pathologist for any concerns you may have with your child’s speech, language, and/or feeding. For more information, you may be interested in these parent handouts for late talkers.

 

Of course, safety is always first.

Please be sure that an adult is always present and watching closely as these options are explored. Use good common sense, folks. But we DO need that baby to learn all the awesome things their little mouth can do when it gets movin’!

 

Happy Mouthing, Speechy Friends!

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