Toy Tuesday: Pop Up Pirate
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Toy Tuesday: Pop Up Pirate

Toy Tuesday Pop Up Pirate

Toy Tuesday: Pop Up Pirate

In this month’s Toy Tuesday blog, Natalie is sharing lots of great ideas for incorporating Pop Up Pirate into therapy!

Pop Up Pirate is a classic family favourite game that is played by children all around the world. Using this fun and engaging game for speech and language therapy will never get boring as there are many ways it can be adapted to meet the child’s targets and get them motivated. The game is also regularly being updated to children’s favourite characters, including Pop-Up Minions, Olaf, Mickey Mouse and Darth Vader.

Pop-Up Pirate is incredibly easy to play, just push the pirate down and the children take turns to push the coloured plastic swords into the slots until the pirate pops out. Children (and even adults!) love the element of surprise and anticipation this game brings. The game says it can be used with 2-4 players, however you can easily adapt it to be used for 1-4 individual players or by using coloured teams for group therapy.

Here are some ways we use Pop-Up Pirate as part of our speech and language sessions:

Taking Turns

Some children need help to take turns to help develop conversational turn-taking. For others, it is helpful to get them to increase their attention and ability to wait through game playing. Being able to wait for their turn helps children to develop their attention skills, therefore increasing the number of players extends how long they have to wait between turns.

Pop-up Pirate is a fun way to do this as the children take it in turns to have a go. The children can say who should take the next turn and make a prediction as to who and which space will make the pirate pop.


Looking and Attention

Pop-Up Pirate can be used to reinforce the value of looking at the person who is talking and paying attention. Simply place all of the swords in a box in the middle of the table and ask the children to sit and listen to the rules. The rules of the game are to only take a sword when then adult looks at child and winks. If the child is doing particularly good looking, they might get more than one go!




  • The game can be used as a reinforcer activity after a child has produced their target sound. Print off a set of pictures for the speech sound you are working on and then place the swords on top of each picture. The child then chooses a sword to reveal the picture, and each time the child makes a successful attempt at their target sound, they get to push a sword into the barrel. The more they get right, the quicker the pirate will pop up!
  • Another fun idea is to hide the swords round the room with one of the pictures you want the child to name. As the child finds each one, ask them to name the picture then they can have a turn at the game.
  • If the child is working on generalising a sound into phrases or sentences, choose a carrier phrase that contains their target sound. For example, if you are working on the initial /k/ sound you could ask the child what picture is under the sword they picked, for example ‘I found a cat ’ or for those working on initial /l/, you could use ‘I would like a blue sword please…’ etc. You can easily adapt this for any target sound that they are working on.


Language Activities

Pop Up Pirate

  • SVO (Subject-Verb-Object) sentences: Place a picture under each sword and then ask the child to use a SVO sentence before they put their sword in the barrel (i.e. The girl – is washing – the dog).
  • Question formation: Encourage the child to answer and ask many different types of questions during the game, for example yes/no questions (Can I have a ____ sword?), wh-questions (What colour would you like?  Where is the ____?  When do you think the pirate will pop?)
  • Plurals: If you are working on plurals then you can ask the child to ask for multiple swords at a time, i.e. one sword, two swords.
  • Pronouns: Pop-Up Pirate is great for practicing using pronouns, for example Heis in the barrel.  He has an eye patch.  His beard is black.  I think he is going to pop! If the child is working on using the pronoun “I” you can also model and encourage phrases such as, “I choose___”, “I have__” and “I need__” whilst playing the game.
  • Prepositions: If you are working on prepositions then try playing a hiding game with the swords and then describe where the child can find them (inthe cupboard, under the table, behind the door, etc.)



  • Basic vocabulary: You can use Pop-Up Pirate to work on colour words using the coloured swords (red, yellow, green, blue) and any basic vocabulary. Simply put pictures of the words you would like the child to learn under the swords and ask the child to name them before they have a go.
  • Describing: Ask the child to describe their feelings while they are waiting for the pirate to pop (i.e. Are you excited? nervous? scared?). You can also ask the child to describe what the pirate looks like before they have a go.
  • Categories: Try using animal cards/pictures and ask the child to figure out which animals the pirate might see when he is at sea (e.g. sea animals vs farm animals) or what the pirate might need to take on his ship (clothes vs food).


Following Directions

Use the swords in the game by asking the child to follow directions before they take their turn. For example, ‘If you have shoes on, pick a red sword’, ‘If you have a brother, pick a yellow sword. You can make the instructions as easy or as complex as you wish depending on the child’s target. For example you could add prepositions (i.e. ‘Use the blue sword under the book’).


We’d love to hear your ideas too – what’s your favourite way to use Pop-up Pirate for a therapy target?