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Playdoh Pumpkins…Therapy Ideas for Toddlers

Don’t get caught without a few QUICK and EASY holiday therapy ideas for this week leading up to Halloween! Here’s one ANY time-challenged therapist (or mom!) can pull off for the next few days….
One of the reasons pediatric speech-language pathologists love playdoh is because it’s versatile or open-ended. There are usually no “rules” for playing with playdoh other than make whatever you want… and try not to make too much of a mess while you do it!
However, “no rules” can be a bit of a problem when you’re not sure what to do during an activity with a late talker. We may be reluctant (not to mention, ineffective) when we don’t have at least a few pre-planned ideas.  Let me give you a winner for this time of year that can be adapted for many different developmental levels.
Pumpkins are a natural extension of everyone’s “go-to” object to make with playdoh – a ball. It’s easy too, even for toddlers. When they don’t know how make one yet, show them! Pinch off a piece and roll it around between both palms until it’s round like a ball. This may take a l…o…n…g time for some toddlers to master, and that’s okay! Learning isn’t always fast!
Get yourself a can of orange playdoh (and a pinch of brown or green for the stem) and make some pumpkins in different shapes and sizes.
Choose Your Language Goals
Actually…that’s just one of the language goals you can target with playdoh. Introduce size words – big, little, large, small, tiny, etc… I also teach the descriptive words “round” and “soft.”
My favorite word class to teach with playdoh is action words (verbs). Don’t forget to use playdoh pumpkins to teach familiar action words (verbs) like roll, push, pull, cut, and smush (a very useful word!).
Whenever you can connect the play idea to real life. For example, use the playdoh pumpkin idea to help a child remember a recent trip to the pumpkin patch. Reliving memories is one of the reasons we all use language! Talk about specific things he did that day. If you took pictures, scroll through together to help him remember.
Or use the playdoh pumpkin idea to prepare for a trip to the pumpkin patch. It can be your introductory activity.
Didn’t make it to the pumpkin patch this year? (Me either!) Use the playdoh pumpkin idea to help the child connect the playdoh pumpkin to the real pumpkin out on the front porch! If moms have decorated with pumpkins, show a child, and then say, “Hey! Let’s go make our own pumpkins!” Get out your playdoh and proceed!
To add more variety, sing some cute songs about pumpkins.
While I play with kids, I make up my own ditties as we play, chanting or singing things like “Roll it…roll it…make a pumpkin.” Don’t dismiss this simple idea. Verbal routines, or saying the same little phrase over and over, is a super effective way to teach language – receptively and expressively. First of all, it teaches a child to understand a new word like “roll” or “pumpkin.” Secondly, it provides an opportunity for a late talker to begin to say the word in a no-pressure context. Rather than holding up the pumpkin-shaped playdoh and asking, “What’s this? Tell me. Say pumpkin,” you’ll be giving a child a chance to jump in there and imitate or say “pumpkin” on his own.
When you’d like something a little more structured, sing “5 Little Pumpkins Sitting on a Gate.” If you need the words and tune, Google it or search for a youtube video to refresh your memory. When you have a kid who is obsessed with videos, watch a version of “5 Little Pumpkins” together (I hate it, but yes, even I do it when I have a kid like this!) and then make playdoh pumpkins as a follow-up “doing” activity.
If you’re super creative, branch out in to other Halloween shapes!
take the easy way out altogether and use cookie cutters – again more structure for those of us who like that!
Most of the time, I stick with making little pumpkins and it works out just fine!
Want more therapy ideas like this? My best two resources for these kinds of goals tied to play activities are in Teach Me To Talk: The Therapy Manual and my newest manual (to be released in November 2017) Let’s Talk About Talking.
Other Therapy Ideas for Halloween
Halloween Spinning Wands – great for working on joint attention!
Vocalize in a Jack-o-Lantern  – teach intentional vocalizing and imitating sounds
Sneaky Squirrel Game – work on lots of language goals!
Book Ideas – Use these activities, even when kids don’t like books!



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