23 Oct Toy Tuesday: Mr Potato Head
To the untrained eye, the work of a speech therapist can look a lot like playing games with children all day. We certainly do play a lot of games, but we use them to target a huge range of speech, language and communication goals in a way that keeps it motivating for the children…and for us! We’d like to share some of our favourite toys and games with you, and hopefully give you some inspiration about how to incorporate your child’s speech and language targets into them.
The first toy taking centre stage is Mr Potato Head. This classic, well-loved toy has been around since 1952 and, along with Mrs Potato Head, became even more popular when Toy Story hit our screens in the mid-90s. Mr Potato Head is available for as little as £8.00 from high street toy shops and I bought additional parts on eBay.
Mr Potato Head is always popular in my therapy sessions and children love making a new character each time – some take a traditional approach to their placement of the facial features, while others channel their inner Picasso!
Here are just some of the areas you can target using Mr Potato Head and his accessories:
- Choosing and requesting: Offering two pieces, for example the eyes or the hat, gives your child the opportunity to choose which one they would like and request it. Non-verbal children can look at, point, reach, or sign for the item that they want. Verbal children have the opportunity to use a single word (hat), two words (black hat), or a phrase (I want the hat).
- Following instructions: You can make the instructions as simple or as complex as you like – ‘find a nose’ ‘find the red nose’ or ‘find the red nose and blue glasses’. For those children who are resistant to adult direction, I like to disguise this task as ‘tidying up’ and ask them to give me specific items as I put them away!
- Basic vocabulary: Mr Potato Head’s accessories are body parts, facial features and items of clothing, so you have lots of opportunities to model the word and/or the sign for each one.
- A reward activity: Each time your child attempts a target sound or word, let them add one piece to Mr Potato Head.
- Sentence level speech targets: If your child is working on generalising a sound into phrases or sentences, choose a carrier phrase that contains their target sound. For example, for those working on initial /l/ you could use ‘I would like…’ and for /k/ you might try ‘Can I have…’
- Colour concepts: Depending where you’ve got to with teaching colours, you could use the accessories to ask them to ‘find me one the same colour’ ‘find me a red piece’ or ask ‘what colour are his shoes?’
- Pronouns: If you have both Mr and Mrs Potato Head you can talk about them to practice pronouns in a number of ways – ‘he has a red nose’ ‘she is wearing a hat’ ‘these are his shoes’
- Asking for help: Sometimes the pieces are a bit tricky to get into place, providing an opportunity for little ones to ask for help.
- Taking turns: Taking turns to add a piece to Mr Potato Head not only helps children learn to wait, but also to tolerate and accept what the other person has chosen to add!
We’d love to hear your ideas too – what’s your favourite way to use Mr Potato Head for a therapy target?