Top Toys for Teaching CORE Words Open and Closed

Top Toys for Teaching CORE Words Open and Closed

In this Real Talk SLP podcast episode 108, I share the top toys for teaching CORE words open and closed in your play-based speech therapy sessions. We want versatile toys when picking toys for our preschool and elementary caseload! That’s why the toys I recommend can work on AAC CORE words for open and closed and other speech and language skills.

Why Teaching the CORE word Open & Closed Are Effective in Speech Therapy

I am sharing some of my favorite toys to teach the CORE words open and close. We know that kids love hands-on learning and using toys. Training the core words open and close are great word pairs to teach in therapy for various reasons.

First, it’s easy to visually show the word pairs in play, especially if you use some of the toys I recommend later in the show.

Secondly, coaching parents to model and work on these words during daily routines and in-play activities is feasible for their busy schedules. For example, you can teach how to open/close the door, a snack container, a toy item, and the clothes drawer.

Thirdly, open and close can be paired with other nouns, so if you want to help a client begin using 2-word utterances, being able to communicate open or close can later be paired with nouns, such as open box, open door, etc.

The best toys to teach AAC CORE words open and closed in speech therapy

Toy Companion Cheat Sheets for Play-Based Speech Therapy

If you enjoy using toys in your play-based speech therapy but struggle with adapting the toy for different speech and language goals, these toy companion speech therapy cheat sheets are for you! And, if you need help with coming up with targets on the spot, you can reference the toy cheat sheet while working with your clients. We provide wh-questions, at least 24 verbs to use with the toy, tier II vocabulary words, basic concepts, articulation sound words, adjectives, and ten ways to use each toy or game to target therapy skills. Grab your free bubbles toy companion cheat to try these cheat sheets in your play therapy sessions. 


Speech and Language Toys Shared in This Podcast Episode for CORE Words Open and Closed

Get the best toys for teaching open and closed to help build vocabulary in preschoolers.

In this episode, I shared about different sets of toys to teach CORE words open and closed. Here is a round-up of the resources and blog posts I mentioned (Amazon affiliate links are provided for your convenience):


What Toys Do You Use to Work on Word Pairs Open and Closed?

Get toy ideas for teaching open and close for the CORE word of the week.

If you have an engaging toys that you love to use to teach the AAC CORE vocabulary for open and closed, please share in the comments. SLPs are always looking for toys that can work on speech and language skills in a hands on way!

Best Preschool Speech Therapy Toys for Play-Based Learning

Best Preschool Speech Therapy Toys for Play-Based Learning

If you are working with preschoolers aged 3-5, keeping them engaged in your speech therapy sessions can be tricky! Sitting for long periods with flashcards and worksheets usually works poorly. Instead of working on speech and language goals, you might find yourself redirecting and managing behavior. When you can use a play-based learning approach in your sessions, you will see a BIG increase in engagement with your preschoolers. Today, I share the best preschool speech therapy toys to rock your play-based sessions. 

Considerations When Purchasing Preschool Speech Therapy Toys

Many of you may be on a budget for buying speech therapy toys. It isn’t realistic that you can purchase toys for every stage of development. And spending money on toys that meet your students’ interests is tough. The best way to approach purchasing preschool speech therapy toys is to look at a toy and envision all the skills you can cover with it. Typically, battery-operated toys have specific actions or sounds, which could limit creativity. That’s why finding good toys with various functions and the ability to be simple or complex in the play will be the best bang for your buck. 

 Consider The Child’s Motor Stages

The other thing to consider when purchasing speech therapy toys for toddlers and preschoolers is what motor stage of development your clients or students are functioning in. When the toy or play activity requires heavy motor or sensory work, it may be harder for your client or student to focus on the communication and language skills you want them to practice. For example, fine motor skills develop around 24-48 months (2-4 years). Fine motor toys may include puzzles, or filling containers with smaller objects. So, if you have a student who is 3 years of age but whose fine motor development is delayed, participating with toys with many fine motor skills may be difficult. So, I like to look at preschool toys to see if I can adapt them for simpler gross or fine motor skills or if I need to adapt them for play-based speech therapy sessions.

Preschool Toys for Parallel & Associative Play

Children doing parallel play can work together, doing their own thing. Having toys that allow kids to play parallelly and then work towards associative play is easy to adapt as the child progresses. Associative play is when kids start sharing and have more interest in other children. 


  • Bubbles are great for associative play, cause and effect, and if you have multiple wands with one bubble tray, children can do parallel or onlooker play. 
  • Stacking cups or stacking towers to model verbs, spatial concepts, and CORE words such as more, look, etc. This toy can then move into sharing, waiting, and turn-taking. 
  • Blocks or Jumbo Legos are always great to have on hand because you can start with simple one-action play and later move into turn-taking. These toys are good for kids still in the gross motor stage and struggling with fine motor tasks.
  • Playdough is a sensory-friendly toy that can have many possibilities when it comes to play and works well for kids at the parallel or associative play stages.
Get ideas for speech therapy toys for preschool to use in your play-based speech therapy sessions.

If I Had to Pick Only One Toy for Preschoolers

Magnetiles are awesome because you can use these for parallel to cooperative play. They are so versatile and easy to adapt that this is my overall pick if you can only pick one toy set in this list for parallel play. You can use this toy with younger kids; older students also think this toy is awesome. Plus, it has elements of building and stacking, so if you can’t afford to get blocks, stacking towers, and magnetiles, just get these!

Have Speech Therapy Cheat Sheets To Use With Your Toys & Games

If you love doing play-based speech therapy but struggle to remember targets for articulation, verbs, vocabulary, adjectives, basic concepts, carrier phrases, and wh-questions, use these cheat sheets with 45 of your favorite toys and games to reduce brain fatigue when following your student’s lead with play. Each toy companion has 10 ways to use the toy and evidence-based practices when doing play-based learning in your sessions. 


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Get ideas for preschool toys for three year olds to use in speech therapy.

With associative and cooperative play, preschoolers are learning how to interact with one another. During associative play, children do the same activity or use the same toy but do not necessarily move toward a common goal. So, for example, with associative play, two children could be playing with a farm toy house, but one is playing with the cows while the other is driving the tractor around the farm. As children progress into cooperative play, they will solve problems together, engage in pretend play, or create stories or games with the toy.

Here are some great toy sets that will allow you to work on speech and language goals at both stages:


  • The farmhouse toy is versatile and can be used any time of the year, and kids love animals!
  • Play food makes for a great toy to invest in because you can cover a variety of themes such as food, breakfast, picnic, dessert, and cooking, and you can use the food as props with books you read.
  • Critter Clinic is a pet vet toy with so many options when working on speech and language goals. This toy works well for open/close, verb action, taking care of pets, and more!
  • Having a play toy house is something to invest in because you can cover furniture, rooms of the house, and play schemes related to the child. We all have a home, and working on vocabulary and concepts familiar to the child is meaningful. 
  • Dinosaurs are a fan favorite and can be adapted in many ways in therapy.
  • Train or all-around town toy sets allow you to cover verbs, transportation, basic concepts, wh-questions, and more!

What Speech Therapy Toys Do You Recommend for Preschoolers?


If you have a toy set that you always use with preschoolers, share in the comments what you recommend! It’s always nice to hear from other SLPs to see what tools and toys they use to work on play and other speech therapy goals.

Find preschool toys for four year olds that you can use in play-based speech therapy.
Apple Speech Therapy Toys and Props

Apple Speech Therapy Toys and Props

You can do an apple speech therapy theme any time of the year, but it’s enjoyable to do it during the fall months when apples are harvested. If you love an apple theme and want some ideas for toys and props to use in your play-based speech therapy sessions, this is the post for you! I have rounded up all my favorite apple-themed props that you can use to increase engagement while targeting speech and language goals.

Amazon affiliate links are included in this blog post. When you purchase something with one of my affiliate links, I receive a small commission at no additional cost. 

Apple Props for Sorting Activities

Learn how to use these apple speech therapy props to cover speech and language goals.

Many of our students with language disorders have areas of need with vocabulary development. Often, our students need help with categorization, understanding wh-questions, and having depth of knowledge with vocabulary meanings. You can work on sorting with an apple theme by making DIY apple baskets using lunch-sized paper bags. I cut mine down and then added apple sorting printables to use in therapy for co-teaching and small groups. Another option is to use baskets that you may have around your house or empty cardboard boxes.


To follow an accurate theme-based approach, you would want to have sorting baskets to have concepts related to apples. For example, students could sort big and little apples, or category group items for fruits, containers, and foods with apples. You can do a skills-based approach with the fun apple props, too. Just know that a theme-based approach teaches speech and language skills using a context for the students to attach meaning to the new concepts and vocabulary. 

Free Apple-Themed Speech Therapy Lesson Plans

If you work with preschool and early elementary speech therapy students use this free Apple-themed speech therapy lesson plan. It has a free apple cooking visual recipe and visual supports for an easy apple paper plate craft. Plus, Live Love Speech and I added links to games, toys, and other materials that would fit an apple theme perfectly. 

Get your free apple-themed speech therapy lesson plan with a craft and cooking lesson.

Props for Sensory Bins & Hands-On Activities

Learn about how to make this apple speech therapy sensory bin to cover your student's goals!

Worksheets are very effective in practicing speech and language goals, but sometimes it can be boring for you and the students! You can use apple speech therapy props to work on LOTS of goals. For sensory bins, you can use Dixie cups or toilet paper rolls to make apple trees. Students can put the fallen apples back on the tree to work on basic concepts. Talk about quantities, make the trees different lengths to work on long/short, or use with your pretend play activities like going to an apple orchard.

Apple Surprise Party Boxes for Mini Trinkets & Mini Pictures

Raise your hand if you love the surprise party box toy sets from Learning Resources? You can have a similar toy prop using these plastic apple boxes. I have filled them with the Themed Therapy SLP verb and vocabulary flashcards (print four to a page) and mini trinkets. You can see a LOT of different versions on Amazon. Here are a few ways you can use them:


  • Answer wh-questions & describing about the items inside
  • Open/close and in/out
  • AAC CORE words for open, look, want, more, out, in
  • Preposition apple tree picking hunt – hide the apples around the room
  • Put in a basket and have kids see how many words they have to practice based on the number inside the apple


How would you use this prop in therapy? Share in the comments. 

Props for Apples & Tips for How to Use

Learn about these apple preschool activities and ways to make it hands-on!

If you have flashcards for articulation, phonology, or language, put plastic apples on top of the card. When they have “picked” all the apples, they can earn a game or start a new activity. Michael’s has a whole section of fake apples about 1.5-2 inches in size. 


For all my preschool SLPs working on colors and size, Learning Resources has a set of apples that are yellow, green, and red and also big and small. 


You can’t go wrong with using red and green pom pom balls to act as an apple-picking game. Roll a die or spin a spinner to see how many apples you picked. Students can put the pom poms on the open-ended game mats from the Themed Therapy SLP membership to see who picks the most apples.


Another variation with the pom pom balls is using them to feed the animals while reinforcing any goal. 

What apple-themed toys and props do you use in speech therapy?

Do you have a favorite apple toy, game or prop that you use in therapy? I would love to know what it is and how you use to it plan engaging sessions. Share in the comments or tag me on social media @thedabblingspeechie with a pic of it in action. 

Check out these apple-themed speech therapy ideas for preschool and early elementary.
4 Squirrel Toys You Need for Speech Therapy

4 Squirrel Toys You Need for Speech Therapy

You are seriously missing out if you still need to plan a squirrel theme for your elementary caseload. Squirrels are the funniest creatures, and kids love talking about them.

This theme allows you to ditch your worksheets and easily target speech and language goals with toys and props. This blog post will teach you about four squirrel toys for speech therapy.

This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links which means when you use the link to purchase an item, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Squirrel Toys Speech Therapy Must-Haves

 Squirrel toy props for your speech therapy sessions that will increase engagement with your students!

Not only is the game Sneaky Snacky Squirrel for targeting speech sound goals, but it also has fabulous game pieces to add to sensory bins. In particular, this game is excellent for targeting s-blends. You can see all my favorite games for s-blends HERE.

The game itself provides opportunities for teaching colors, turn-taking, functional communication, commenting, and verb actions.

Plus, you can use the acorns to teach more, less, all, none, and for pretend play with squirrel figurines.

If you need a toy companion cheat sheet for this game, head to my store to snag the resource that gives you 45 cheat sheets for your most used toys and games.

Want to see how you can use a toy cheat sheet for your therapy groups? Try the bubbles toy cheat sheet for free in this blog post

Squirrel Dog Toys for Teaching Language Skills

One of my go-to places to find themed props is the dog section in stores or on Amazon.

There are always seasonal toys that can be used for your pretend play activities. Hands down, one of my favorite finds is the squirrel log dog toy.

You can target basic concepts, verb actions, answer yes/no questions, and grammar concepts, and hide other items inside the log. Put your acorns inside from sneaky snacky squirrel to work on plurals grammar markers, verbs (i.e., gather, find, carry, collect), and wh-questions.

For more ideas on where to find themed props, head to this blog post.

Squirrel toys speech therapy must-haves that will bring your sessions to life!

Join the Themed Therapy SLP Membership

If you are on the struggle bus with planning themed therapy for your Prek-5th grade caseload, let me take that off your plate!

You can use various printable and digital materials to plan a themed therapy unit without stress. When you join the annual membership, you can access over 24 themed units at once, like the squirrel theme!

Get the support you need to serve your students well.

Squirrel toys speech therapy must-haves that will bring your sessions to life!
Squirrel toys speech therapy must-haves that will bring your sessions to life!
Squirrel toys speech therapy must-haves that will bring your sessions to life!
Squirrel toys speech therapy must-haves that will bring your sessions to life!

Squirrel Figurines for Pretend Play and Sensory Bins

Squirrel toys speech therapy must-haves that will bring your sessions to life!

Another unexpected place to find mini-themed figurines is cake decorating store sections. I found these squirrel figurines on Amazon and knew they would be perfect for a sensory bin and play sets. If you own a treehouse toy or play house, check out how to make a squirrel takeover for play-based speech therapy in this blog post.

Squirrel Toy Speech Therapy Must-Have for High Trials

When working on speech sound goals, you always need props or activities that help make practice trials more fun. Use this squirrel ball popper to hit acorns with points you draw on the whiteboard. You can have students earn the balls after practicing their words several times. Set the flashcards for your language goals and have students try to hit a flashcard to practice.

Squirrel toys speech therapy must-haves that will bring your sessions to life!

What Squirrel Toys Have You Found for Your Caseload?

Squirrel toys speech therapy must-haves that will bring your sessions to life!

Have you found any fun squirrel toys you use with your elementary caseload? If so, share your finds in the comments of the blog post. For more squirrel lesson plan ideas, head to this blog post.

Squirrel Play-Based Speech Therapy Idea!

Squirrel Play-Based Speech Therapy Idea!

One of the MOST fun themes ever includes squirrels! During the fall season, your students will see squirrels scampering about, darting, and scurrying around outside anywhere there are trees or plants.

They are some of the silliest creatures to watch, so why not incorporate squirrels into your play-based speech therapy sessions?

I want to share a fun squirrel play-based speech therapy activity that you can pair with your favorite squirrel book!

Many of my sessions are structured with a book and then a play-based activity to allow for direct teaching, incorporating literacy, and allowing the child to explore concepts while playing.

You will find Amazon affiliate links for your convenience in this blog post. When you use these links, I earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

What You Need For The Squirrel Play-Based Speech Therapy Activity

Change things up in  your traditional speech therapy sessions by using this squirrel play-based speech therapy activity!

To have your squirrel take over, you need any toy set, but the one that would be best is the treehouse toy set from Fisher-Price. You can also use this fun treehouse from Calico Critters or Li’l Woodzeez

You need these mini squirrel figurines, and if you want verb and vocabulary flashcards related to squirrels, you can find those in the Themed Therapy SLP membership. The squirrel theme is part of the September month, but when you get an annual subscription, you have access to all the themes throughout the year, so you can pick the theme you need for your caseload!

Goals to Target with the Squirrel Play Therapy Activity

You can hide different verb and vocabulary flashcards throughout the play set when doing your squirrel takeaway.

Have your squirrels gather all the cards that are hidden around the set. As your student’s squirrels find cards, you can target speech and language goals.

You can also work on verb actions for the squirrels, target pretend play schemes such as preparing for winter, or work on basic concepts with the squirrels.

With your students working on speech sounds, give them words to practice related to squirrels that have their sounds. Or, have some sound-loaded phrases to use while playing.

Change things up in  your traditional speech therapy sessions by using this squirrel play-based speech therapy activity!

For example, if you are working on s-blends, you can naturally target scamper, scurry, squirrel or snack. For students working on /l/, you can have them say “look” every time they find a squirrel or flashcard.

Or, if the squirrels are searching for acorns and nuts, they can “munch” or “chew.”

How would you use this squirrel-themed play-based speech therapy activity to cover goals on your caseload?

Need more Squirrel Speech Therapy Ideas?

Change things up in  your traditional speech therapy sessions by using this squirrel play-based speech therapy activity!

If you are sold on using a squirrel theme with your entire caseload, you need to check out this blog post for more ideas!

This is a very underrated theme because every time I use it, kids LOVE it. To help you rock a squirrel theme longer than a week, check out this squirrel language lesson plan guide in my store!

You can also find a sneaky snacky squirrel toy cheat sheet in this resource

Leaves Preschool Activities – Hands on Ideas for SLPs

Leaves Preschool Activities – Hands on Ideas for SLPs

Working with preschool-aged students who need some engaging leaves preschool activities?

Well, you came to the right blog post!

When working with the younger crew, we want to find ways to spark their curiosity, and most often, that means ditching the traditional drill tasks and pulling out hands-on activities.

DIY Falling Leaves Hands-On Activity

Easy leaves preschool activities to use in your play-based speech therapy sessions!

To work on labeling the colors of the trees and the essential concept word pair on and off, make this DIY falling leaves hands-on activity. Amazon affiliate links are provided for your convenience.

You need the following supplies:

Colored cardstock
Jumbo popsicle sticks
Velcro dots
Fall colored pom pom balls
Pincher tool (optional)
Styrofoam square (get from packaging, or you can order some here.)

Your students can work on putting leaves on and taking them off and target the verbs put, fall, drop, pick, and gather. Naturally, use this to get high trials by having your students practice their speech targets for each pom pom ball they put on or take off the tree.

How would you use this DIY leaves activity? Share in the comments of the blog post.

Leaves Preschool Activities for Pretend Play

You can create a dramatic play activity for kids to pretend to pick up fallen leaves off the ground. Buy fake leaves, a basket or container, and a plastic rake. Your students can work on sequencing the steps for raking the leaves, targeted verbs, vocabulary, and answering “who” questions. For example, you can have students take turns raking leaves and ask, “Who has the rake?” 

Leaves preschool activities that will keep your students engaged during your speech therapy sessions.
Leaves preschool activities that will keep your students engaged during your speech therapy sessions.

Here is a list of other variations to do with the leaf raking activity:


  • Have a race to see how long it takes to rake the leaves
  • Throw some leaves in the air and see how many they can catch with a basket. The number of leaves is the number of words the child has to practice.
  • Teach students vocabulary such as collect, toss, pile, pick, dump, fall, gather, carry, drag, scoop
  • Add painter’s tape or a blanket on the ground. Have your students try to rake the leaves onto the blanket. When all the leaves are on the blanket, they can try to fold the blanket and then dump the leaves into a container. You can problem solve if leaves fall out or if the blanket is too big, how to ask for help. 

Movement Activity With Leaves

Cut up colored construction paper into the form of a leaf. You can put different numbers, directions, verbs, or any speech or language target. Hide the leaves around your room. Tell your students that leaves have fallen off the tree around your room. Carry a container while students find the leaves. You can work on basic concept clues, and then when they see the leaf, they can practice their speech sound the number on the leaf.

What Leaves Preschool Activities Do You Use With Your Students?

If you have any fun leaves preschool activities you do in your speech therapy sessions, share them in the comments. If you need more fall-themed therapy ideas, check out these blog posts:

Preschool Leaf Lesson Plan for Co-Teaching

Engaging Fall Themed Speech and Language Activities

Fall Sensory Bin Ideas to Make Therapy Fun!

10 Fall Themed Sensory Bin Fillers