top of page

How to Incorporate Play-Based Therapy in Speech and Language Intervention

Chit Chat Speech Therapy is a leading provider of speech and language therapy services in Minnesota. Our skilled speech therapists utilize various techniques, including play-based therapy, to help children overcome speech and language difficulties. Contact us online or at 763-280-3202 to learn more about our services and schedule a consultation.


The Importance of Play-Based Therapy in Speech and Language Intervention

Play-based therapy is an effective and engaging approach to speech and language intervention. It helps children develop essential communication skills while having fun and staying motivated. In this section, we'll explore the benefits of play-based therapy and why it's a critical component of successful speech and language intervention.

The Benefits of Play-Based Therapy

  1. Natural Learning Environment: Play-based therapy provides a natural and relaxed environment for children to practice and develop their speech and language skills. This helps them feel more comfortable and open to learning.

  2. Motivation: Incorporating play into therapy sessions keeps children motivated and engaged, making the learning process more enjoyable and effective.

  3. Social Skills Development: Play-based therapy encourages interaction with peers and therapists, helping children develop essential social skills and confidence in their communication abilities.

  4. Holistic Approach: Play-based therapy addresses various developmental areas, including cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development, ensuring a comprehensive approach to speech and language intervention.

Key Strategies for Integrating Play-Based Therapy

To incorporate play-based therapy into speech and language intervention, consider the following strategies:

Selecting Age-Appropriate Activities

Choose activities that are appropriate for the child's age and developmental level. This ensures that the activities are engaging and challenging, without being overwhelming or frustrating. Young toddlers tend to respond well to cause and effect toys. Older toddlers and young children often like imaginative play, and elementary aged children often like board games or creative activities. 

Targeting Specific Speech and Language Goals

Ensure that the chosen play activities target specific speech and language goals. For example, if the goal is to improve a child's vocabulary, select games or toys that involve labeling objects or actions. Have a plan in mind of what types of sounds or vocabulary targets you want to improve. Then wait for or create opportunities for those things. If you’re looking for engagement, set up an activity but keep some important and motivating pieces in a container that is difficult for the child to open. This will force them to look to you and request “help” or “open” or even just eye contact if they are non-verbal. If you’re working on a certain sound, think of a few words including that sound, point them out, use them as much as possible, and encourage the child to attempt the sound and then teach the correct production while the child is motivated to learn and practice. If your target is receptive language in the area of following directions, ask them for help by giving them directions that are related to the activity. This creates a natural learning environment for them to use functional skills. 

Encouraging Active Participation

Encourage the child to actively participate in the play activities. This can be achieved by providing choices, asking open-ended questions, and giving the child control over the play situation. Make sure the activity is motivating to that specific child and they’ll remain engaged and do additional work for you. If you choose an activity that the child does not care about, they likely wont want to participate and getting them to practice the targeted skill will likely be very difficult.


Modeling Appropriate Language

Model appropriate language during play by using simple, clear sentences and emphasizing target sounds or words. This helps the child learn correct speech patterns and vocabulary. For younger children, expand their sentences. This means if they say “Blue ball!” you respond with “That IS a blue ball!” or “Yeah, that’s a BIG blue ball!” or something similar, you want to acknowledge their sentence while showing them how to add more words to their sentences. If you’re working on articulation, model correct sound production and learn to read the child’s exhaustion/motivation levels. Make sure you’re not correcting too much, but correcting enough in a meaningful way that the child understands why they’re doing the work. 

Providing Feedback and Reinforcement

Provide feedback and reinforcement during play to help the child understand their progress and maintain motivation. Praise the child's efforts and use specific feedback to guide them towards their speech and language goals. We want to avoid saying generalized “good job,” we want to be specific, like “Great job using that new word we learned!” or “Great job keeping your teeth together on that /s/ sound!” so the child is being rewarded and knows exactly what they did to deserve the reinforcement, making it more likely to happen in the future. 

Play-Based Therapy Ideas for Speech and Language Intervention

Here are some play-based therapy ideas to incorporate into speech and language intervention sessions:

  1. Pretend Play: Engage in pretend play scenarios, such as playing with dolls, action figures, or kitchen sets. This encourages imaginative play and provides opportunities for practicing language skills. Often times this can be child-led, meaning the child directs that activities and the therapist can insert some ideas while offering corrections for the target.

  2. Board Games: Play board games that target specific speech and language skills, such as articulation or vocabulary development. These are easy to use for practicing as the child can take a turn practicing the skill before they take a turn in the game! 

  3. Storytelling: Use storytelling or role-playing activities to target narrative language skills and help children practice sequencing events, using descriptive language, and understanding story structure. This allows you to ask “What happens next?” or “How did we get here, I thought we were doing ____?” so the child understands the importance of sequencing. 

  4. Craft Activities: Engage in craft activities that promote fine motor skills, following directions, and vocabulary development. This is great for practicing concepts like top, bottom, left, right, before, after, middle, under, over, next to, between, etc. 

  5. Sensory Play: Incorporate sensory play activities, such as playing with playdough or sand, to encourage exploration and language development. This allows the therapist to practice vocabulary like “slimy, rough, smooth, soft, bumpy” and use phrases like “I don’t like touching that” to help the child feel more comfortable expressing when they don’t like something due to it’s texture, making it more likely they can specify what they don’t like or do like about something else in the future. 

The Role of Parents in Play-Based Therapy

Parents play a vital role in supporting their child's speech and language development. By incorporating play-based therapy techniques at home, parents can help reinforce the skills their child is learning during therapy sessions. Here are some tips for parents:

  1. Observe and Imitate: Watch your child's play and follow their lead. Imitate their actions and language to encourage communication and interaction. 

  2. Expand on Language: When your child uses a word or phrase, expand on it by adding more words or details. This helps them learn new vocabulary and sentence structures while being familiar with words/concepts they already know.

  3. Use Open-Ended Questions: Ask open-ended questions during play to encourage your child to think and respond using their language skills. If they only are expected or allowed to answer “yes” or “no,” they will do that. If you ask open-ended questions it allows them to use more language to communicate with you.

  4. Schedule Regular Playtime: Set aside regular playtime each day or week to engage in play-based activities with your child. This consistency helps reinforce speech and language skills. It’s also great bonding time for both you and them! Find things you like to do as well, or have the child practice doing an activity that maybe they don’t care for too much first and then get rewarded for appropriate behavior by getting to play with you after!

  5. Collaborate with the Speech Therapist: Maintain open communication with your child's speech therapist to discuss progress, challenges, and strategies for incorporating play-based therapy at home.

Contact a Speech Therapist for Play-Based Therapy in Minnesota

Play-based therapy is a highly effective and engaging approach to speech and language intervention. By incorporating play into therapy sessions, speech therapists can create a fun and motivating environment for children to develop their communication skills. With the support of parents and skilled speech therapists, play-based therapy can significantly improve a child's speech and language abilities.

If you are looking for play-based speech and language therapy services in Minnesota, contact Chit Chat Speech Therapy. Our dedicated team of speech therapists is committed to helping your child reach their communication goals. Reach out to us online or call/text us at 763-280-3202 to schedule a consultation.

bottom of page