Play-Based Therapy Archives - thedabblingspeechie
Play Themes for the Spring Months

Play Themes for the Spring Months

One thing that I like to do when I plan lessons for play therapy is to consider the time of year. When we pick play activities that our students could be experiencing in their daily lives, we can give them functional practice on their speech and language goals that can be generalized in the home setting.

With the spring months here, there are a lot of play themes that you can use with your students. Amazon affiliate links are provided in this blog post for your convenience. I earn a small commission when you purchase something with my link with no additional cost to you.

Pretend Play Themes for the Spring Season

Use these spring play themes to cover your speech and language goals with your preschool to 2nd grade students.

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 the steps for packing a picnic, describe a basket and blanket by attribute features, and work on categorizing food by fruits, snacks, and entrees. Additionally, you can use a basket from home to put your food in the basket to work on basic concepts. Some other basic concepts you could target are in/out, in front/behind, over, under. 

Plus, you can work on so many social communication skills while you are eating your picnic lunch. Specifically, you can work on initiating requests for items to eat, make comments for how you like the food, and work 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. 


Spring play themes to work on speech and language goals during play therapy.

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

Going on a Bug Hunt Play Theme

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.

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.

Spring Play Theme with a Flower Shop or Garden

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. 

Spring play themes to use for pretend play in speech therapy. Work on speech therapy goals using a garden or flower shop pretend play theme.

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 Tips for Implementing Play Themes

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.

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.
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 Pretend Play Activities Do You Use With Your Students?

Have you tried any spring-themed pretend play activities that your students loved participating in speech therapy? I would like to know what play themes you are using to support your speech and language goals. Let me know in the comments what activities you recommend trying for the spring season.

10 ways to use an ice cream toy set in speech

10 ways to use an ice cream toy set in speech

When it comes to play therapy, we want to use toys that are relatable and motivating for our students. What kid doesn’t LOVE ice cream? Ice cream is a dessert that so many kids experience and enjoy, why not use it to target speech and language goals?

An ice cream toy set is a versatile speech therapy toy that your preschool and elementary students will enjoy using. This makes lesson planning easier when you have one toy set that can be adapted to target many different goals.

Today, I am going to share 10 ways that you can use an ice cream toy set in play-based therapy. If you are interested in doing more play-based therapy and want some tips, head to this blog post.

Where Can I Buy an Ice Cream Toy Set for Speech Therapy?

Here are some of the best ice cream playsets I would recommend checking out for pretend play activities. If you are on a budget, check out Goodwills, Offer Up, or Facebook Marketplace. Sometimes even sharing a post on social media asking friend and family if they have toys to donate can be an affordable way to collect some of these items. You can also try to get your toy sets through Donor’s Choose

Favorite Speech Therapy Toy Sets for Ice Cream Pretend Play

How to use an ice cream toy set to cover a wide-range of goals in speech therapy

 Melissa and Doug Scoop and Serve Ice Cream Counter – I own this one and LOVE it! It’s a little more expensive but is great for an ice cream shop pretend play activity.

Melissa and Doug Ice Cream Cone Set – this set is more affordable and would be great for pretend play with eating ice cream at home for dessert.


Sweet Treats Ice Cream Parlor by Battat – this set is probably the most affordable and has all the accessories to make your own ice cream sundaes. It could be great for an ice cream party pretend play activity.

Playdoh Kitchen Ice Cream Party Set – you know your kids will go bananas when they see they can make playdough ice cream sundaes in speech!

Kidzlane Ice Cream Toy Set – is a versatile set that comes with cones, cups, bowls and waffle cones. Plus, if you add water to the ice cream scoops, they change colors for new flavors. Plus, they are dishwasher safe, so you can easily sanitize these toys.

Play-Based Speech and Language Toy Companion Cheat Sheets

How to use an ice cream toy set to cover a wide-range of goals in speech therapy

Need a cheat sheet guide to help you with targeting wh- questions, Tier II vocabulary, articulation, basic concepts, adjectives, and helpful therapy ideas for toys you use during play-based therapy? Grab this Toy Companion Cheat Sheet Guide for Prek-2nd grade and have stimulus targets mapped out for 18 different toys. 

There is a two-page toy companion for an ice cream toy set that will help you remember targets to use in your play-based therapy. When you don’t have enough time to plan therapy, you can count on your cheat sheets to help you have effective therapy.

Engage your speech therapy students with these 10 ideas for using an ice cream toy set in speech therapy! So many speech skills can be targeted with it.

Using an Ice Cream Toy Set in Play-Based Speech Therapy

 Engage your speech therapy students with these 10 ideas for using an ice cream toy set in speech therapy! So many speech skills can be targeted with it.

1.Role play different social situations using the ice cream toy. Have the students make a sundae or ice cream for another person working on conversation skills and perspective taking.

2.Create different flavors of ice cream with the student’s speech sound or target adjectives.

3.Work on following directions with basic concepts using the ice cream cones.

4.Answer “who” questions by giving students different types of ice cream.

5.Phonology milkshake: Students can only put items in the blender that have their sound.

6.Work on sequencing steps for making an ice cream sundae or a milkshake.

7.Sort ice cream toppings into sub-categories, such as fruit, crunchy toppings, sweet, and sauces.

8.Discuss problems and solutions related to ice cream, such as if you drop your ice cream or the shop doesn’t have the flavor you like.

9.Work on speech and language while doing an ice cream shop pretend play activity.

  1. Talk about the noun functions for spoon, bowl, cone, freezer, scooper, etc.

More Therapy Ideas for Using Toys in Play-Based Therapy 

When all the assessments and meetings are due at various times during the school year, your creativity always seems to deplete in planning therapy. So, if you need some new inspirational therapy ideas for some of your student’s favorite toys, here are some blog posts to check out:

Using a Pet Hospital Toy

10 Ways to Use Play Food in Therapy

Trains to Target Speech and Language Goals

Using a farm toy in speech therapy

How Do You Use an Ice Cream Toy Set in Speech Therapy?


Do you have a fun way to engage your students with an ice cream toy set in speech therapy? Share in the comments, tag me on Instagram @thedabblingspeechie, or email me at

How to Conversational Recast with Grammar Therapy

How to Conversational Recast with Grammar Therapy

We all want our therapy time with students to be as productive and effective as possible. Our therapy sessions fly by, and when you have mixed groups, you wonder if you even made a dent in helping a child make progress on their goals. That’s not the best feeling.

That’s why I want to share a conversational recast strategy for grammar therapy to help you make the most of your sessions. Plus, I have a FREE  100 unique verbs checklist to keep track of verbs you recast during an activity.

What is a Conversational Recast?

Basically, a conversational recast is a fancy word for emphasizing what the child said with the correct grammar morpheme. For example, if the child said, “He eat,” the clinician could say, “Yes, he eatsssss cookies.” You probably already do this evidence-based practice naturally in your sessions. Still, when you are sitting at IEP meetings, you can confidently tell the IEP team that you are using EBP with grammar intervention.


How I Was Implementing Grammar Therapy

In the past, I would pick 3-6 verbs I wanted to target in therapy. Then, I would conversational recast those 3-6 verbs throughout the session. Whether I was doing a worksheet, using task cards, or play-based therapy, I used a handful of verbs as my targets. I thought by targeting a small set of verbs over and over again would help my students learn the grammatical morphemes easier.

For example, if we were playing with a farmhouse and working on present progressive verb tense, you would hear me using conversational recasts such as “The cow is eating. The horse is eating. The pig is eating. Now, the cow is sleeping. The horse is jumping. The pig is rolling in the mud. The cow is rolling in the grass.”

With my grammar intervention, I would also explicitly teach the grammar rules and then cueing the student to try and use the morpheme.

The way I was doing therapy was NOT wrong or ineffective; however, when reading about the positive outcomes from the research study, “Variability in the language input to children enhances learning in a treatment context,” it gave me permission to start adding in harder verb targets into my therapy sessions.

Using conversational recasts to support grammar intervention

Using 24 Unique Verb Conversational Recast in a Session

Easy to use conversational recast cheat sheet to make grammar therapy easier to implement!

This research study looked to see if 18 preschoolers with language impairments made better progress with learning grammatical morphemes when either conversational recasts of 12 verbs two times in a session or 24 unique verbs were conversational recast in a session. The study found that when the clinicians used 24 unique verbs in a session, progress was better. 

I know what you might be thinking….how in the heck am I supposed to think of 24 unique verbs in a mixed group? With off-task behaviors? With limited time to prepare materials?

If you did not think these thoughts, I did! I  tried implementing this conversational recast approach with activities I had planned. It was hard to think of verbs on the spot and keep students engaged. 

So, I created a cheat sheet with 100 unique verbs that I could checkoff while doing any therapy activity. That way, you could put it in a page protector sleeve and check off verbs that you conversationally recast during activities.


Even if you weren’t able to hit 24 unique verbs in a therapy session, this reminds us all that switching up the variety of verbs is beneficial for our student’s learning the grammatical morphemes. You can now provide more unique verbs in therapy and feel confident that you aren’t making grammar intervention more confusing for students!

Need More Cheat Sheets to Help Save Lesson Planning Time?

Play-based therapy can be an effective way to approach grammar intervention for a variety of reasons. For starters, it is easy to grab a toy off the shelf and start using it in therapy. Another thing to note is that students are more engaged when they feel like they are “playing,” so using toys gets excellent buy-in from students. Having to think of 24 unique verbs on the spot while using a toy is a little daunting for the busy SLP, right? I know I need to conserve my brain energy to write that after school and conducting therapy all day can drain my brain. 

That’s why I created toy companion cheat sheets to use any toy and have the grammar targets already selected. Having cheat sheets helps me follow the child’s lead for what toy they want to play with while allowing me the freedom to enjoy therapy. It’s a great feeling knowing that I don’t have to think of verbs on the spot in therapy! Plus, you can also give these toy companions to teachers and parents and provide them with some ideas for working on grammar outside of your sessions. 

Using toy companion cheat sheets to conversationally recast verbs in grammar intervention
Using toy companion cheat sheets to conversationally recast verbs in grammar intervention
Using toy companion cheat sheets to conversationally recast verbs in grammar intervention

More Ideas for Implementing Conversational Recast in Speech Therapy

If you are needing more ideas on how to implement this conversation recasting strategy, I have a replay of an Instagram LIVE I did talking about some therapy ideas. You can also check out this paper plate craft that is easy to use for grammar HERE. When you don’t have time to prep and plan activities, you can head to my store to find grammar activities that include a variety of verbs and align with EBP.

Conversational recast using this paper plate activity in grammar therapy
Toy Trains Speech Therapy – 10 tips for how to use

Toy Trains Speech Therapy – 10 tips for how to use

Young children always seem more likely than not to have a fascination with toy train sets. Maybe Thomas the Tank Engine/Thomas the Train has something to do with it?! They love building train sets and making the trains go around the railroad tracks. You can capitalize on this interest by having your students build and do pretend play, all the while allowing you to work on a variety of different speech and language skills with them. I’m sharing 10 skills you can focus on with toy train sets below, so keep reading to get all of my suggestions!

Where Can I Buy a Toy Train Set for My Speech Room?


There are a few different toy train sets available online. One of them is even a Melissa and Doug set, which you know is going to be really well made and high quality! All of the ones I’m suggesting below can be found on Amazon, but you might be able to find them at stores like Target, too. The links below are Amazon affiliate links for your convenience.

Melissa and Doug Take a Long Railroad (This one is great for SLPs who don’t want to assemble a railroad.)

On Track USA Figure 8 Wooden Train Set

Cute Stones Wooden Train Set

Toy Train speech therapy ideas for play-based therapy.

Play-Based Speech Therapy Information

If you are wondering about how to implement play-based therapy in your sessions, check out this blog post for some tips.

Often times in my sessions, I will do a mix of direct structured therapy using a toy and then will allow time for a natural play-based activity time with the toy. This helps me get those direct trials in for certain goals and then allows me to take the child’s lead with the natural play-based time. 

Toy trains are a favorite toy for many of my students, so planning therapy around motivating toys keeps students engaged in therapy. Check out 10 ways you can use a toy train set in therapy.

How to use toy trains in speech therapy

10 Ways to Use a Toy Train in Speech Therapy

10 ways to use a toy train set in speech therapy

1. Teach cause and effect by knocking the train off the track, crashing into something, stopping all of the sudden, letting go of the train to go down the hill, etc. Work on comments about what happened, joint attention, and requests to do it again.

2. Work on sequencing with first, next, and last, or tell a story with the child’s actions and then work on re-telling the sequence. Sequence the steps for a train picking up and dropping off the passengers.

3. Have the students make deliveries with the train. The students describe the items they delivered by attributes. You can also give clues to work on inferencing.

4. Work on mean length utterance and grammar structures for plural tense, present progressive, third person singular, past tense, adjectives, and prepositional phrases.

5. Work on following directions with basic concepts and prepositions. You can teach basic concepts of up/down when going up a hill on the track. Other basic concepts you can target are around, on/off, and over/under while the child has the train go over or under a bridge.

6. Use the train to work on slow/fast speech for fluency. Have the train get stuck to demonstrate blocks with stuttering.

7. Use the train to help increase articulation or phonology productions. Lay the train sideways and put cotton balls above the train as “smoke” for each production. Take the cotton balls off one by one for more productions.

8. Build a train track. Place mini trinkets or flashcards along the track. Have the train stop at each item to practice, answer a wh- question, describe, use in a sentence, etc.

9. Follow the group’s plan and flexibility with changing the social routine or play routine. One person is the conductor, and all the cabs have to follow the head train.

10. Facilitate pretend play for getting on a train, paying for a ticket, collecting the tickets, and arriving at the destination.

If you want all these ideas handy as you implement play-based therapy, you can add my toy companion cheat sheets for 18 different toys to use in therapy. There is a Spanish and English version. Many SLPs use the resource in therapy to coach staff and parents how to work on skills while playing with toys.

Easy ideas for using a toy train in speech therapy for the busy SLP

How Do You Use a Toy Train Set in Speech Therapy?


Do you have a fun way to engage your students with a toy train set in speech therapy? Share in the comments, tag me on Instagram @thedabblingspeechie, or email me at


More Toy Speech Therapy Idea Blog Posts

Using toys in speech therapy can be a great way to plan for different goals and help keep your students engaged. Here are more blog posts on how you can use different toys to target lots of goals in therapy:

How to Use a Farm Toy in Speech Therapy

10 Ways to Use Play Food in Speech Therapy

10 Ways to Use a Pet Vet Hospital in Speech Therapy

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