Best Speech Therapy Activities & Games

speech therapy activities

Are you a speech therapist looking to revitalize your activity library? Or seeking ideas for one tricky child? Are you a parent whose child has just started speech therapy and you want to know what you can do to help them at home? Or, maybe you’re a caregiver whose loved one has just suffered a stroke or TBI and you want to know what you can do to support them in recovery.

Sometimes, it can be hard to know where to start. Here, we will cover therapy ideas across the lifespan that can be used in session or at home to carryover the skills your SLP is targeting. Practicing at home is very important for faster progress and maintenance of skills, even after therapy ends.

Overview of Speech Therapy Activities

Speech therapy activities are the games or exercises a speech-language pathologist uses to target certain communication or swallowing goals. Different types of activities are used depending on the patient’s age, goal, or even the therapy setting. For example, a therapist would not choose the same activity for a person recovering from a stroke as they would for a preschooler at their school.

Types of Speech and Language Challenges

Speech-language pathologists see patients with a wide variety of communication and swallowing disorders. SLPs working with children will commonly work on receptive and expressive language, articulation (pronunciation), or fluency, whereas an SLP working with adults may focus more on swallowing, executive functioning, or word-finding difficulties. Therapy activities for young children are usually more play-based, using games, pretend play, or movement activities. For school-age children, therapy activities will often be tied into their academic work and use more structure. For adults, speech therapy activities usually focus on regaining skills to return to prior function. They often incorporate real-life skills like reading and interpreting the news or eating a regular diet.

Speech Therapy Activities for Different Age Groups

Speech Therapy Activities & Games for Preschoolers

Children, especially young children, learn best through play. Activities for speech therapy in this age group typically involve a LOT of play. SLPs working with young children like to keep the activities fun, exciting, and engaging. Some examples of speech therapy ideas for younger children may include:

Pretend Play

Pretend play activities are perfect for practicing speech therapy goals at home. Whether your child is working on building vocabulary, using their speech sounds, or any other goal, pretend play can be adapted to work for them. For example, with a toy farm set you can work on sound imitation (moo, baa, neigh), action words (the cow is eating, the duck is flying, etc.), or following directions. Or, with a toy house, you can work on learning pronouns (he, she, they, his, hers, etc.), action words, or even early social skills through simple play routines like answering the phone or eating at the table.

Building Activities

Building activities, such as blocks or Legos, are also great activities for working on a wide variety of speech goals. You can work on requesting (more, more blocks), joint attention, and expanding phrases (top, on top, put it on top, etc.)

Picture Searches

Picture searches (think like Where’s Waldo or other similar scenes) are a great way to practice speech sounds. Your child can search the picture for as many things that contain their sound as possible.

Memory Matching

Card games are a great way to work on your child’s speech sounds. With memory matching, you take a set of picture cards (ideally with words containing sounds your child is working on) and flip them upside down. Players then take turns flipping cards until they find a match, practicing their sounds all the while.

Go Fish

Go Fish is another great card game for working on speech sounds with younger children. Go Fish card decks are readily available at many retailers. Go Fish is particularly good for children who may be working on their “G”, “F”, or “SH” sounds, but can be used for a wide variety of speech sounds.

Hide and Seek

All kids love playing hide and seek, and it’s a great way to work on spatial concepts like in, on, under, or behind. All you need to do is hide items around a room and have your child describe where they found them (under the table, on the chair, behind the curtain).

Drawing, Coloring, Crafts, Etc.

Art activities are perfect for practicing so many different speech therapy goals. Kids can work on learning their colors, requesting things they need, describing their pictures, or drawing pictures using their speech sounds.

Songs and Nursery Rhymes

For toddlers or younger children, songs and nursery rhymes can be highly engaging. They’re also a great way to learn language concepts such as animals (Old McDonald), letters (Alphabet Song) or body parts (Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes).

Toys (Mr. Potato Head, Pop the Pig, etc.)

When choosing toys as a speech therapy activity, most therapists recommend selecting toys that do not include batteries and so children are more hands-on. Mr. Potato Head, for example, is great for learning body parts and expanding phrases. Other games like Pop the Pig are good for counting and turn-taking skills.

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Speech Therapy Activities & Games for School-Age Kids

Speech therapy activities for school-age kids are usually more structured than for toddlers or preschoolers. They will often incorporate some amount of reading or writing, especially for older children. Additionally, many activities for this age group are appropriate for either or group therapy.

Tongue Twisters

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. She sells seashells by the seashore. Tongue twisters are a great way to keep school-age children engaged while having them practice their speech sounds. Tongue twisters for all sounds are readily available online.

I Spy

I Spy is a great speech therapy activity that can be used both in groups and one-on-one. Children can work on describing what they see, using their speech sounds, and making inferences. It’s a great game to play in the car driving around town.

Card Games

Card games such as Uno, Go Fish, or Old Maid are a great way to target many speech and language goals. Children can work on social skills such as turn-taking or winning and losing, or can also work on their speech sounds.

Barrier Games

In barrier games, children describe their pictures to one another to make their pictures match, but without being able to see each other. It’s a great speech therapy game for describing and following directions, and can easily be worked on at home using crayons and paper.

Reader’s Theater

Reader’s Theater may be a lesser known activity, but it is very helpful and fun for children. Older elementary students are given short scripts to act out very simple plays. They are great for working on speech sounds and fluency, as well as short term and working memory.

Sequencing Cards

Sequencing cards break stories down into visual steps to help kids work on story comprehension, narrative development, and answering “wh” questions (who, what, where, when, why). It’s a great activity for children working on receptive and/or expressive language skills.

Board Games

Board games are essential for quick speech therapy ideas that keep children engaged, and are great for group or one-on-one play. In groups, children can work on turn-taking while addressing their individual goals, making them perfect for mixed groups working on different things.

Storytelling

Many school-age children work on narrative development, or the ability to tell a story in order and with detail. Storytelling dice are one easy way to work on narrative development with school-age children and are available at multiple stores or online.

Word Lists

Word lists are usually lists of words containing a specific speech sound in all word positions. For example, a word list for the sound “K” may include words such as “cat, cup, kite, bucket, lucky, ankle, peek, book, and neck.” Word lists are excellent for practicing speech therapy activities at home because they can be adapted into so many different types of games. A simple way to use word lists at home is to take any board game (such as Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, or others) and have your child practice a word from their list a certain number of times on their turn using their best sounds. Word lists can also be used without games for older children who are able to practice a set number of words 2-3 times a day.

Speech Therapy Activities & Games for Teenagers

There are multiple speech therapy ideas you could consider when working with teenagers. For this age group, engagement and relevance are very important. When choosing games, it is important to ensure they are not too childish. Oftentimes, activities for speech therapy will integrate ideas from their academic curriculum and peer cooperation in group therapy.

Role-Playing Scenarios

Role-playing scenarios, such as pretending or order from a restaurant, schedule a doctor’s appointment, or interview for a job can help older students learn how to carryover their speech and language skills outside of the therapy setting. These activities can work for children with any type of speech or language goal.

Practice Presentations

Teenagers are usually expected to give class presentations at some point. For those with speech and language needs such as stuttering or speech sounds, practicing the presentation ahead of time, or giving pretend presentations, can help them build the confidence to present in front of their class.

Games Like Apples to Apples

For teenagers, card games such as Apples to Apples can help with higher level language skills such as understanding humor and sarcasm. They can also be used to help teach new vocabulary in fun contexts.

Reading News Articles

Teenagers are increasingly interested in current events. Reading news articles together is a great way to keep speech therapy activities relevant to their interests while also targeting goals such as comprehension, figurative language, or vocabulary.

Reading Poetry

Poetry is loaded with non-literal language like similes and metaphors or idioms. Reading poetry is wonderful for helping teenagers learn inferencing and non-literal language skills.

Writing Narratives

Teenagers are expected to write increasingly long narratives or essays as part of their academic work, but developing narratives can be difficult. Working on narrative development in speech therapy can look like helping them plan out their essay or story while using complete sentences and grade-level vocabulary appropriately.

Speech Therapy Activities & Games for Adults

Speech therapy for adults is often more focused on regaining lost skills following a TBI or stroke, and activities for this age group are typically related to the functional life skills they are trying to regain. Speech therapy activities for adults are often individual activities, but for older adults in settings, such as skilled nursing, group speech therapy activities may also be used.

Journaling

Journaling is a great way to help adults work on language production in a way that’s relevant to their everyday life. Adults can reflect on their day to write their journal entries or respond to pre-planned prompts.

Name Ten

In Name Ten, players are tasked with naming ten items from a given category as quickly as possible. This game is wonderful for word finding goals.

Reading News Articles

Most adults read the news several times a week, if not daily. Reading news articles together can help language comprehension and daily living skills by returning to the prior level of functioning.

Discussing Current Events

Similar to reading news articles, discussing current events is another way to help adults with their daily living skills. It can also facilitate social communication, language comprehension, and word finding skills.

Keeping a Monthly Calendar

Many adults keep monthly calendars where they will write in appointments or other important events to stay organized. Maintaining a monthly calendar as an activity helps adults work on their executive function in a very functional way.

Words with Friends

Words with friends is an app that’s available on most Apple or Andriod devices, and it’s a great game for speech therapy! You can think of it like an ongoing game of Scrabble. Words with friends promotes social engagement and word finding.

Benefits and Outcomes

The goal of speech therapy is always to improve communication (or swallowing), regardless of the age of the person receiving therapy. Speech therapy has the greatest success when therapy games and activities are carried over into the home setting. This encourages generalization of skills and caregiver involvement. Practicing speech therapy games at home with your loved one will ensure that skills are being practiced consistently. As a caregiver, it is important to remember that these skills are being learned. Patience and encouragement are vital for engagement and participation.

Additional Resources and Support

If you are concerned with your loved ones speech or language skills, practicing some of these suggested games or activities at home can be a good place to start. It is also important to receive guidance from a professional speech-language pathologist to ensure that you are practicing activities that are personalized, appropriate, and beneficial.

To find a speech-language pathologist in your area, you can consult with your primary care provider or search for providers through the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) website. You can also check the credentials of any provider here.

Benefits of Forbrain in Speech Therapy Activities

Forbrain is an altered auditory feedback device in which listeners hear their own voice played back 10 times faster due to bone-conduction. Forbrain can be a useful tool in speech therapy and can help improve auditory processing, speech sounds, attention, and memory. ForBrain can be used both in speech therapy and as a home practice tool in activities such as reading books, singing songs, or other activities. For more information on the research done for ForBrain, please check out this article through the ASHA Wire here.

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Final Words

Speech therapy is a unique type of therapy that is used to improve and/or remediate speech, language, and swallowing skills. Speech therapy activities are the games or practices speech-language pathologists (SLPs) use in therapy to keep in engaging, practical, and effective. SLPs use a wide variety of treatment methods that often incorporate games and activities to keep therapy fun and engaging. Therapy games and activities are very important for maximizing progress, especially when they are also done at home. Playing speech therapy games with your loved one will help them learn how to transfer the skills they are learning into their life outside of therapy. Therapy progress can be maximized when parents or caregivers practice speech therapy activities at home with patience and encouragement. Incorporating these activities into your daily routines helps ensure that skills will carryover outside of direct therapy and into everyday life.

Natalie Fitzgerald

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Natalie is a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist and holds a Certificate of Clinical Competence from ASHA. She has earned Master's degree in speech and hearing sciences at the University of North Carolina. Natalie has worked with children of 1-21 years of age and has experience with a wide variety of speech and language disorders such as articulation and apraxia, fluency, expressive and receptive language, and AAC.