Valentine’s Day Books and Speech Therapy Ideas for Toddlers
Here are some sweet little books for your youngest Valentines this year, along with a few ideas perfect to use for speech therapy with late talking toddlers and preschoolers.
Little Blue Truck’s Valentine
I love all things related to Little Blue Truck and use these books year round. In this book, Little Blue delivers valentines to all his barnyard friends. For therapy activities, read the book together a few times (always more than once!) and then carry-over the theme with farm animal play. It’s even better if you can find a truck to add to your collection! The truck doesn’t even have to be blue — just a truck!
For nonverbal or minimally verbal toddlers, stick to play sounds and model the animal and truck noises from the book as you play with the farm animals together.
For an additional activity, match the animals to the pages in the book. To introduce this activity, set out your farm animals one at a time. Name each one and make its sound as you point to the corresponding page in the book and say something like, “Ooooh look! I have animals just like our book. See! Here’s a… pig! Pig! Look here’s the pig (pointing to the pig in the book). Oink oink! That’s what pig says? The pig says oink oink! Pig!” Encourage a child to imitate the animal sound or any other play sound you make like “Beep!” for Little Blue.
If kids can already identify farm animals, show them a page from the book and ask them to find the correct toy animal. Keep it light and fun saying something like, “Wow! Look! What’s that? It’s a ____ (expectantly waiting for them to fill in the blank and say the animal name.)” After a few seconds, say the animal’s name if a child doesn’t. Then say something like, “Yes! It’s a _____. I see a horse. You find the horse! Where’s the horse?”
For older toddlers, make hearts by cutting them out from pink, red, and white paper and then if a child enjoys early art projects, decorate the hearts with any toddler-friendly material like stickers, coloring with washable markers or crayons, or a glue stick and scraps of tissue paper or wrapping paper. Re-enact the book by delivering the cards to animals.
Create a Little Blue Truck Valentine’s Day sensory bin by filling a plastic container with a filler material like dry beans, rice, pasta, sand, or even dirt! Hide the animals along with a few hearts in the filler. Encourage the child to find each animal and put it in the truck. Talk about the animal names and sounds as you dig and find them together. Add more fun and things to talk about with tools like spoons or shovels for kids to dig/dump the filler material.
If you’d like more ways to teach a child to imitate, you can find step-by-step directions in my therapy manual Building Verbal Imitation Skills in Toddlers.
Where’s is Baby’s Valentine?
What a perfect way to introduce and reinforce a gesture/word for asking “Where” and for early prepositions and location words with this darling book for Valentine’s Day!
Read the book together several times. Exaggerate the gesture for “Where’s” each time you read that word by holding both hands out with palms open as if you’re asking, “Where?”
For minimally verbal kids and kids who are learning to imitate, you can also model the word “Boo!” every time you open a flap. The repetitiveness and predictability will provide lots of structure (with the novelty of a new book!) to help them learn this cute, social peek-a-boo routine.
For an activity, hide something around the room similar to locations from the book for a child to find. If you have something heart-related, use that! If not, make a large heart, use a heart-shaped candy box, or I’ve used anything from a favorite pillow to a baby doll. Place the object in the location (use ones from the book like behind the chair, under the blanket, etc.) Model big gesture for “Where’s the ______?” as you ask each question. Help a child locate the item with cues like pointing or taking the child to the object. This is a great activity to work on participation/joint attention and following directions.
Encourage children to use the gesture to ask the question for “Where’s the ____?” each time you’re looking for the object. Use hand-over-hand assistance to help a child perform the gesture if he doesn’t imitate after several models.
Kids may also imitate the preposition/location word if that’s your goal. If not, choose a verbal response that’s appropriate. Pick a target word and repeat it each time you find the object. Some children may name the object you’re locating such as, “Pillow!” or “Baby!” For a verbal child who’s beginning to work on phrases or a child who’s echolalic and you’re enticing them to say anything functionally, you might try a holistic phrase such as, “I did it!” or “There it is!” when she locates the object.
Older toddlers and preschoolers may enjoy hiding the object themselves while you close your eyes. Ask “Where’s the ___?” several times using your gesture. Look for the object in several locations really hamming it up before you find it.
You can also target yes/no responses with big gestures and words as you’re reading the book and hiding objects.
Find more ideas for teaching prepositions and every other language goal for toddlers and preschoolers through 48 months in my therapy manual Teach Me To Talk: The Therapy Manual.
What Does Baby Love?
This is a fantastic book for teaching early imitation with familiar, fun actions and vocalizations for a child to copy. Model the actions as you read the book such as tickling the baby, patting the drum, panting like a dog, or saying “bubble” or “pop.” Encourage a child to imitate too. Read the book together OFTEN. If a child isn’t imitating yet, it means you haven’t read the book enough for them to learn the routine. Don’t give up! It may take several days/weeks of reading the book together and modeling the actions before a child will begin to participate.
If you’re working with a child who isn’t talking or imitating yet and you’ve tried lots of ideas, maybe something else is missing. Get my therapy manual Let’s Talk About Talking to help you discover the missing piece.
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