Engaging Spring Play-Based Speech Therapy Activities

Engaging Spring Play-Based Speech Therapy Activities

When you are planning sessions for your preschool through second-grade students, consider the time of the year! When you pick toys and activities that your students experience in their daily lives, you give them functional practice their goals! Today, you will learn some spring play-based speech therapy activities you can do to cover LOTS of speech and language goals. 

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Spring Themed Activities for Preschool Through Second Grade

Easy and fun spring play-based speech therapy activities

During the spring season, your students may go on picnics with their family and friends. Why not work on play skills while going on a picnic!?

You can work on sequencing skills with the following ideas:

  • Packing a picnic
  • Shopping for food
  • Inviting friends on a picnic
  • Cleaning up the picnic
  • What you did on your picnic adventure

Picnic Play-Based Speech Therapy Activities

Need some more picnic play-based speech therapy ideas? Here are some MORE ways to use a picnic play activity:

  • Describe picnic items by attribute features
  • Work on the categorization of food by fruits, snacks, drinks, vegetables, and entrees.
  • Sort items by adjectives such as crunchy, sweet, soft, or salty.
  • Target negation by sorting what students like/don’t like
  • Use a basket from home to target spatial concepts
  • Conversationally recast morphology such as plural nouns, third person singular, pronouns, and noun-verb agreement. 
  • Create a story using stuffies and picnic items

Plus, you can work on many social communication skills while eating your picnic lunch. Specifically, you can work on initiating requests for items to eat, making comments about how you like the food, and working on conversation skills while sharing a picnic meal.

Here are some play sets that you can buy for your picnic play theme:

Learning Resources Super Sandwich Set – this set is plastic, which makes it easier to disinfect after using with students.

Learning Resources has a picnic set that has a lot of foods that our students enjoy which is relatable to them.

Melissa and Doug have a felt sandwich toy set that comes with a variety of pita bread, slice bread, and roll type sandwich toys. They also have a wooden sandwich toy set that could be good for easy sanitizing after use. 



You might also want to consider these play food toy sets if you would like to use them for a variety of play themes such as grocery stores or going to the farmer’s market. 

Battat Farmer’s Market Basket

Learning Resources Farmer’s Market Color Sorting Set

Learning Resources Fresh Picked Fruit and Vegetables with shopping tote

If you need more play food ideas for preschool speech therapy, head to this blog post

Insect Theme Preschool Play Activity

Bug pretend play ideas for preschoolers

Using bugs in therapy could really be a year-long theme because a LOT of students love bugs. Going on a bug hunt can be a great pretend play theme for spring. Hands down, the BEST investment for a bug hunt play theme are the insect TOOBS or the Wild Republic Insect Polybag.

You can find a magnifying glass, net, and bug catcher at the Dollar Tree for cheap. But if you don’t want to go driving around looking for all the pieces, there are lots of bug hunt toy sets on Amazon.

Here are some speech and language goals you can target:

  • Describing bugs by attributes
  • Categorization of bugs by features such as wings/no wings
  • AAC CORE words – look, see, yes, no, cool, yuck, I, my
  • Build MLU and morphology by marking plural nouns, adding verbs, etc.
  • Story retell and answering wh-questionse
  • Sound-loaded words or carrier phrases
  • Basic concepts for in/out, long/short, big/small (get different sized bugs), on top/bottom, under/over

Flower Shop Dramatic Play Ideas

You can find fake flowers at the Dollar Tree along with other gardening supplies to create a pretend play theme of a flower shop or planting a garden. Many of our students celebrate a mom, grandma, or aunt on mother’s day in May. This can be a great opportunity to talk about the vocabulary and social communication to buy flowers for someone they love. Ideally, buying flowers can teach the concept of giving, showing love with gifts as well as the verbs and vocabulary for making a flower bouquet. 

A flower or vegetable garden theme could be a great way to incorporate the plant life cycle, and the process of planting flowers. As our students work on answering wh-questions, and explaining the process of planting flowers through play, it helps our students to connect with the words on a deeper level. And, the coolest part is that they can transfer those skills to the home environment when they plant a real garden with their family. 


Flower Life Cycle Therapy Ideas

If you need more ideas for how to teach a plant or flower life cycle in your speech therapy sessions, head to this BLOG POST. There are activity ideas for younger and older students so that you can adapt one theme for a lot of ages and goals. 

Need Resources for Play-Based Speech Therapy Activities?

  When using toys in therapy, remembering all the ways we can use the toy can be overwhelming. By the end of a long play therapy day, my brain deflates like one of those bounce houses when they let the air out….all the air is just gone and it feels like I have nothing left to mentally give when I get home from work. Overtime, I have found that when I have cheat sheets handy in my sessions, I spend less time thinking of targets and more time meaningfully interacting with my students. If you want to save more brain energy AND feel prepared for play therapy without hours of planning, then grab these toy companion cheat sheets for speech and language therapy.

Furthermore, if you LOVE planning theme-based activities for your Prek-5th grade caseload and want themed cheat sheets for sensory bins and toys, the Themed Therapy SLP Membership provides those lesson plans to SLPs. Sign up HERE for a monthly or annual membership.

Easy spring play themes that you can use to target a lot of speech and language goals.  Incorporate pretend play for early intervention or language therapy to help your students stay engaged during your speech sessions.

What Spring Dramatic Play Ideas Do You Use With Your Students?

Have you tried any spring-themed activities with your students? I want to know what spring play-based speech therapy activities you use to support speech and language goals. Let me know in the comments what spring toys, games, or play ideas you recommend for the spring season.

What does play-based speech therapy activities look like?

What does play-based speech therapy activities look like?

If you work with younger-aged students, then planning play-based speech therapy sessions can help you save time with lesson plans and increase engagement with students!

You can adapt toys to cover multiple goals, so you can use the toy in many of your sessions. I love utilizing a toy or a pretend play theme for many of my mixed group sessions! Adapting materials sparks joy in this SLP.

Today, I wanted to share all about what play-based speech therapy is, how this benefits the child, the stages of play, and tips for how to be a rockstar SLP with play therapy! Ya ready for some practical therapy info? After this blog post, you will be confident with doing play therapy with your students!

What is play-based speech therapy?


Play-based speech therapy is when a speech pathologist (SLP) plans speech and/or language activities around a play toy or activity. The SLP will create opportunities for the child to practice the target skill while enjoying motivating toys and activities that are relevant to the child’s interests. 

  • Children are motivated to engage and communicate when playing with materials of interest.
  • Play-based therapy helps increase attention and build better positive interactions.
  • Children learn the social skills necessary for playing with toys and make progress on speech and/or language goals in a naturalistic setting.
  • The child will make better connections with real-life events and will improve memory.

Types of Play That Can Be Targeted in Play-Based Speech Therapy

  1. Exploratory: using senses of touch, taste, and smell to learn about new objects. If you see a child shaking, dumping, throwing, mouthing, or smell items they are exploring play.  
  2. Functional play – investigating how common objects work and are used
  3. Construction play – building things with objects
  4. Game play with rules – board games that have a clear set of rules for playing
  5. Outdoor and movement play – activities that involve physical movement
  6. Symbolic, dramatic, and pretend play – common activities are done in everyday life as play
Wondering how to get started with play-based speech therapy? Check out this blog post to see the benefits of play-based speech therapy and how play-based learning can help you plan engaging speech therapy sessions efficiently! #slpeeps #playtherapy #playbasedtherapy #speechtherapy #speechtherapist #cfyslp #slp #ashaigers #speechies #schoolslp #dabblingslp #preschoolslp #pediatricslp

The Five Stages of Play Children Use

  • Stage I: Onlooker play – watching and observing (under 1 year of age)
  • Stage II: Solitary play – playing by themselves (between 1-2 years of age)
  • Stage III: Parallel play – playing near others but not engaging with others (between 2-3 years of age)
  • Stage IV: Associative play – playing with others but sometimes playing by themselves (between 3-4 years of age)
  • Stage V: Cooperative play – playing with others and will not continue to play without a partner (above 4 years of age)

Tips for Implementing Play-Based Speech Therapy

  • Let the child take the lead during the play activity as much as you can without moving away from the target goals. When doing play-based therapy, it is important for it to feel natural and not clinician-directed.
  • Avoid commands such as, “Say this” during the session. When we put too many demands on students, it takes away from the “play” aspect of therapy. Instead, give 5-10 second wait times after modeling a word or phrase to see if the child initiates a question or a comment.
  • Find toys and materials that are relevant and interesting to the child. Participation will increase with the right toy.
  • If the toy/material is motivating for the child, then use it more than one session. Lesson planning will take less time, and students will have more engagement with the skills.
  • Provide two toys or play options in a session. Allow the child to help make decisions about what he/she wants to play with. Re-introduce toys/materials that were not interesting to the child in the past. They may have a new interest in the toy.
  • Set a timer and have visual supports for students that need preparation before ending a play session. This will help decrease or eliminate unwanted behaviors during transition times.
  • Model speech and/or language skills that you want the child to learn. You can show the child how to get a toy that he/she wants, show how to play with a toy, or use a new phrase the child can use while playing. 

How to Use Toys in Speech Therapy

If you are needing ideas for toys to use in your speech sessions, I have a lot of blog posts that share how to adapt toys for many goals. Your play-based speech therapy sessions will be easier to plan when you have toys that can be adapted for many activities. Check out these posts:

Farmhouse Toy

Pet Vet Toy


Toys for Functional Communication

Learn what play-based speech therapy activities you can use to increase engagement in your sessions!

Play-Based Approach Speech Therapy Cheat Sheets

Use these toy companion play-based speech therapy activities cheat sheets to streamline your therapy planning.

Between managing attention and behavior, as well as working on IEP goals during play, it can be cognitively overwhelming for you as a clinician. We want to maximize those play-based sessions, but it can feel like a workout coming up with relevant targets off the top of our heads. That’s why I created Toy Companion Cheat Sheet Guides for 45 popular toys and games for preschool and elementary. It comes with wh- questions to ask, verbs to target (over 36 for each toy), Tier II vocabulary, articulation words to use, carrier phrases, basic concepts, adjectives, and 10 therapy ideas to implement with each toy. Whew! That’s a lot of skills. You will be ready for your therapy in minutes and can even use these to train parents and teachers with how to use toys in a functional way! Need this in your life like yesterday? 

What Are Your Tips for Play-Based Speech Therapy?


Do you have any tips for implementing play-based speech therapy with your students? Have you found some success with using toys to help your students with complex speech and language needs? I would love to hear your tips! 

And, I would love to know your favorite toys or pretend play themes you enjoy using for therapy. Share in the comments or email me at fe*********@th*****************.com with your ideas. 

Wondering how to get started with play-based speech therapy? Check out this blog post to see the benefits of play-based speech therapy and how play-based learning can help you plan engaging speech therapy sessions efficiently! #slpeeps #playtherapy #playbasedtherapy #speechtherapy #speechtherapist #cfyslp #slp #ashaigers #speechies #schoolslp #dabblingslp #preschoolslp #pediatricslp