Hello, everyone! Before I begin, I would like to personally thank Tina Rocco of The Speech in Motion Blog for the opportunity to guest blog. I am so grateful for this opportunity to share about “communication fun” using inexpensive items such as those found at the Target Dollar Spot!
I don’t know about you…but I love finding inexpensive items to help children work on their communication skills! Some of my favorite spots to look include Target (especially the Dollar Spot section), Dollar Tree, Five Below, Wal-Mart, and Amazon.com. Disclaimer: I am not receiving any financial compensation for advertising sellers or products. When I come across new items, my first thought is “Okay, how can I use this in therapy?” I then try to think of at least two ways in which an item is useful and how it is UNLIKE other things that I have. I must admit, though, that there are times when items are SO eye-catching, that I buy now and think later. Here are some of my favorite recent finds from Target’s Dollar Spot section, just in time for holiday therapy and holiday shopping for the little ones in our lives!
Felt: Holiday Cookies, Sweet Donuts, Tea Time, Breakfast Set, and Sandwich Set
Wooden: Breakfast, Sandwich, and Pizza Party
These were $3 each in Target’s Dollar Spot section. They are wonderful for pretend play! Children can role-play acting as a chef, host/hostess, guest, or waiter/waitress. They can prepare for meals by setting the table, taking orders from others (a great way to incorporate following spoken directions), eating and talking about their days during the meal, and cleaning up/washing dishes. Children can use dolls and stuffed animals as “dinner guests.” Verbs including “eat,” “drink,” “wash,” and “clean,” can be worked on, including concepts like “more” and “all done.” If children are using simple language (spoken utterances that are one to three words in length), as the adult, I would model utterances of that length, or ones that are one to two words longer.
For more academic uses, you can have children work on sequencing with temporal concepts, such as discussing the steps to making a sandwich using temporal concepts, like “First,” “Next,” “Then,” “After,” and “Last.” You can use the sets to write or discuss “How Tos,” like “How to Make a Pizza.”
Children can also put foods into categories by meal type, color, food group, and shape! What else? Well, then you can have them compare and contrast foods, e.g., “How are pizza pies and pancakes alike?” “They are round and they are brown.” “How are they different?” “Pizza pies have cheese on top and pancakes have syrup/butter on top” and “Pizza pies are BIGGER than pancakes.” Oh, I just love incorporating comparatives (-er) and superlatives (-est), too! Speaking of word endings, you can also work on endings like possessive -s, plural -s, -ing, and verb tenses (past, present, and future). As I mentioned, these sets are also great for following directions, which can be as simple or complex as you want, e.g., “Give me the candy cane cookie” or “Give me the purple doughnut.”
I especially love the holiday cookie set- they came out at just the right time!! You can have children act out the process of baking- turn the cookies over so they look “raw,” put them in a play oven, and the finished product could be the cookies with frosting on top. Children can also work on describing the cookies (or any other food in these sets) by stating category, shape, colors, and taste; verbally and/or in writing.
You can also use these sets to work on answering and asking questions, for example “Who wants a pancake?” or “What kind of doughnut do you want?” You can encourage children to use complete sentences versus one-word answers, like “I want the snowflake cookie” or “I want a pancake” instead of just “cookie” or “pancake.”
To work on social skills, children can take turns acting out different roles, e.g., chef, dinner guest. They can practice politeness markers like “Please” and “Thank you.” Children can also work on taking turns, compromising, and sharing materials. Speech-language pathologists can also use the Expanding Expression Tool with these items.
This $1 set from Target’s Dollar Spot has so many possibilities. I especially love that it requires zero prep and cleanup is a breeze! Children can work on following spoken directions. This includes directions with descriptive terms, like “Find something that you can put lights on” or “Find someone who helps Santa.”. That affords opportunities for children to incorporate their background knowledge, in addition to following spoken directions with accuracy. You can have a child repeat the directions after you say them in order to help them remember. For those working on speech skills, these cards provide an opportunity for children to practice their target sounds as well! Children can also describe the pictures by stating category, use/function, appearance (size, shape, color), parts, composition, etc. These cards also provide opportunities for children to ask questions, answer questions, and make comments…so they can engage in conversations and games with others.
Magnetic Play Scenes
North Pole, Sweet Shop, and Spaceship
I just can’t get enough of these! Every time I see them in Target, my heart skips a beat! They sell for $3 each. These are great for working on spatial concepts, like on, top, bottom, in front of, behind, under, over, above, next to, and beside. You can also work on yes/no questions and WH questions, like who, what, where, when, why, and how. As a speech-language pathologist, you can create your own stories to go along with the scenes and characters. Act them out using the magnetic props. In my experience, children understand more and are more engaged when there are hands-on components to accompany stories they are reading or listening to.
Children can also act out and retell the stories by using the props. They can take on the roles of the characters, which also helps with perspective-taking skills. To take it a step further, children can create their own stories using the props. They can incorporate characters, setting, plot, problem, and solution. This will help them with organization skills, planning, expressive language (spoken and/or written), and sequencing skills. Don’t forget that you can include those temporal concepts, like “First,” “Next,” “Then,” and Last.”. I also love how compact and durable these scenes are! Great for long-term use! Speech-language pathologists can incorporate story-based graphic organizers with these sets as well. The “Sweet Shop” also has a tic-tac-toe board, which is great for taking turns, problem solving, and cooperative play!
Thank you for reading my post. I hope you find these ideas helpful. It was my pleasure to share them with you. Happy shopping and Happy Holidays! May you enjoy this wonderful time of year! If you are a professional reading this post, please feel free to join the SLPs who Love Target and Bargains Facebook group.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this post! Please feel free to comment below with any questions or additional ideas related to the materials that I discussed!
© 2017, Lauren Donohoe, M.A., CCC-SLP, TSSLD. All rights reserved.