Need a quick therapy activity to target higher level listening and attending skills with toddlers with cognitive strengths?
I also use it when toddlers or preschoolers need a “movement” break and I still want to keep our time focused and to help fussy toddlers “re-set” when they don’t want to participate in other activities.
I love this little game and use this often this time of year.
Here are the directions…
Materials: Gather several pairs of mittens or gloves or cut out of pairs of mittens from felt or brightly colored paper. Laminate the paper mittens to make them more durable for playing over time.
Activity Variations: For a group of only a couple of toddlers, place 3 or 4 mittens on the floor or table and have the kids take turns finding the match with the suggestions for eliciting language below. If possible, make this activity play-based. Add a toy washing machine so that a child can “wash” the mittens when he’s found the match.
My favorite version of this activity is a racing game and it’s the best way to play when children need to get up and move! Place one of each pair of mittens in a line on the floor across the room. Help the child or children line up on the opposite side of the room so that they can run and place the mitten on top of the match.
How to Play
Set up the materials and then explain the game using very simple language such as, “Let’s match the mittens.” Model playing the game first as you say something such as, “Watch me. See? I’ll pick a mitten. Where’s the one like this? Look! It’s over there. I run and put it down! Match! Match the mittens!”
Return to the children who are lined up and hold the bag of remaining mittens. A child can request his turn by saying “more,” “please,” or answering “Whose turn is it?” with a key word or sign like “mine.” If a child’s goal is using phrases, elicit a phrase by saying something such as, “Say… mitten please,” or “Tell me I want (a) mitten.”
If a child is targeting specific speech sounds, work in the articulation goal. If the child is working on bilabials (/p, b, m/ sounds), he can request a turn by saying, “more,” “mitten,” or “please.” If the target is pharyngeal consonants, have the child say, “go” or “Get glove,” before he takes his turn.
Add verbal routines and exclamatory words to the game by saying, “Ready, set, go!” as the children prepare to run, “Wow!” as you’re showing a mitten, or “I did it!” when a child finds the match.
For most late talkers, it doesn’t matter what specific sign, word, or phrase they produce as long as they sign or say something! Don’t overly emphasize articulation with a very young child who’s not yet using many words. Your overall goal is language!
Allow the child who is most likely to complete the task to go first to serve as a model for the group. Provide physical assistance for kids who don’t know what to do. Continue until all the mittens have been matched.
To end the activity, sing a song for cleaning up the mittens such as, “This is the way we clean up mittens, clean up mittens, clean up mittens” or another clean up song. Or try more specific goals listed below!
Key Signs, Words and Phrases
mitten, more, please, mine, go, wow, yay, see, match, glove, more mitten, my mitten, got glove, get glove, got it, I did it
Receptive Language – Follow directions during a group activity.
Expressive Language – Imitate or spontaneously use signs, words, or phrases to request a turn. Use an exclamatory word. Produce words during a verbal routine.
Cognition – Match objects. Sequence actions within a game.
Social – Interact with peers. Take turns during a game.
Sensory – Participate in movement activities. Exhibit impulse control while waiting for a turn.
Gross Motor – Run or walk independently within a game.
Expand the Game
Target receptive language as you give each child a specific direction to clean up the mittens. Examples are:
Follow very simple directions like, “Run get a mitten and bring it to me.”
Learn size with directions such as, “Go get a little mitten” or “Find one that’s big.”
Teach early quantity concepts such as “one,” “two,” and “all.”
If a child loves and already knows colors, use those concepts to help him learn to listen and follow directions. Ask a child, “Where’s a blue mitten?” or “Clean up the green mittens.” This is the BEST way to use this game with a child who loves colors, but needs practice listening and following directions. (Many of my little friends with ASD love this game!)