I am always looking for FUN and EASY therapy ideas to use with my little friends.
It’s even better when moms like the ideas well enough to keep it going after therapy is over! Here’s one that works for me every year at this time:
Pumpkin Hide and Seek for Toddlers
If a family has a pumpkin out on the front porch to decorate for Halloween, bring it in to use for practice following directions. If a kid is far enough along with his receptive language, work on super functional directions like “Put the pumpkin in the chair,” or “Hide the pumpkin behind the door.”
To make this even more exciting and game-like, have everyone else close their eyes and whisper the direction to the child. After he’s hidden the pumpkin as you’ve directed (even in plain sight!), tell everyone else to open their eyes and “Find the pumpkin.”
Make this a whole-house activity by saying, “Let’s go put it in the tub” or “Make the pumpkin sleep in your bed.”
A young child may decide to “do his own thing” and hide the pumpkin where he would like rather than following your directions, but remember to keep this activity language-based by whispering, “Oh! You put the pumpkin under the table. Pumpkin is under! Shhhh! Let’s see if Mommy can find it.”
You can always try to redirect the child to follow your command on the next turn. Keep it light and fun remembering that happy participation is the first and most important goal for any therapy activity!
Easier Pumpkin Ideas
That game may be too difficult for some toddlers.
When this happens, target simpler receptive language concepts first. Try familiar verbs like patting, rolling, kissing, kicking, rubbing, sitting on, hugging, carrying, or any easy action you can come up with to do with the pumpkin.
Even Easier Pumpkin Ideas If that’s too hard, work on imitation. Model those same kinds of easy actions and encourage a child to imitate.
To do this, you need to make yourself part of the show! When you pat, roll, kiss, kick, or rub that pumpkin, act like it’s the most exciting thing you’ve done all day!
Provide hand-over-hand assistance to help a child when he doesn’t understand what to do or how to play. Get mom to copy you too so that he can see how to repeat your actions.
Better yet, let mom be the leader and you (the therapist!) can be the “helper” for the child.
Still Too Hard?
Play the easiest kind of hiding game with the pumpkin. Get mom to place the pumpkin in different places around the room, even as the child is watching, and then go over and touch the pumpkin together. If a toddler isn’t as engaged as you’d like, hold his hand and help him look as you excitedly say, “Where’s the pumpkin? Where did it go?” Gleefully shout, “Pumpkin!!” or “There it is!” every time you find it.
Or work on object permanence by covering the pumpkin with a blanket and then removing it with fanfare. Celebrate every time you find the pumpkin like it’s the most awesome discovery you’ve made. This over-the-top response is what entices a disconnected child to participate.
One of my favorite games for kids who are at this developmental level is simply rolling the pumpkin to each other. It’s more novel than rolling a ball and even older toddlers who are further along developmentally enjoy this game too. (I have a cute song for this in an upcoming Therapy Tip of the Week I’ll be sending out soon!)
Hopefully, these ideas have inspired you to add some unexpected play routines for your visits this week! If you’re a mom, maybe you can try these tomorrow to keep it fun with your own little pumpkin : )
That’s all for today!
Laura Mize, M.S., CCC-SLP
Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist
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