The entire month of May, ASHA sent out PSAs about limiting technology for children. I totally agree with ASHA, but I think the bigger question is not How do we eliminate technology?, but instead How do we teach parents to utilize technology to increase speech and language skills? My SLP pals who have little ones, know which apps to pick to increase verbal language. My preschool teacher friends know how to provide prompting and engage turn taking while their kiddos use apps. Technology is in every pocket, purse, living room, and lots of kitchens too. We need to help parents use technology the same way we do!
This school year I worked with preschoolers ages 3-6 for therapy. I also worked on the assessment team for preschool. That means I evaluated over 90 preschoolers this year. I also interviewed 90 parents! A lot of parents are buying good apps for their kids. They can do 7 piece puzzles on the iPad and they can match letters, colors, and numbers. When I asked parents if their child is using words or jargon while they play on a tablet, the answer is almost always “no”. We have a lot of amazing parents trying to provide a lot of learning opportunities for their children and I wanted to create a way to help them.
Where do you start? With a good app. To me, a good app encourages language by being engaging, provides age-appropriate play and learning, and can also be used by more than one person at a time.
These are the top 3 free and top 3 paid apps I recommend to the parent’s of my preschool aged clients.
My PlayHome Lite (free) features a digital doll house. I like that it includes ways to use it for kids working on lower skills like cause/effect but also high level pretend play. Target goals: pronouns, action words, categories, location concepts, following directions, expanding MLU, sequencing and routines, vocabulary.
Make A Scene: Farmyard – Innivo Ltd (free) features a scene that you build yourself! Target goals: farm vocabulary, attributes, colors, action words, categories, location concepts, following directions, expanding MLU, sequencing and routines, vocabulary, same/different, WH questions
Toca Kitchen Monsters – Toca Boca AB (free) lets you prepare a meal for a monster. Target goals: food vocabulary, pronouns, basic concepts, action words, categories, healthy/unhealthy, yes/no questions, WH questions, following directions, expanding MLU, sequencing and routines, same/different.
Peekaboo Barn ($1.99) is my all time favorite for cause/effect apps. You can build so much language into it! Target goals: farm vocabulary, size concepts, action words, categories, healthy/unhealthy, yes/no questions, WH questions, open/shut, expanding MLU, sequencing and routines, same/different.
Wheels on the Bus HD ($1.99) takes a preschool favorite song and makes it interactive! Target goals: singing, turn taking, environmental noises, vocabulary, verbal routines, gestures and hand motions, basic concepts, opposites, action words, expanding MLU, sequencing and routines
Pepi Bath – Pepi Play ($1.99) is the last of my top 3 paid apps I recommend. I love it because it features routines that children do daily and provides great ways to practice functional language skills. Target goals: bedtime and morning routines, basic and household vocabulary, turn taking, verbal routines, action words, pronouns, basic concepts, expanding MLU, sequencing and routines.
Take the time to teach your parents how to use these apps and engage them at the end of each session! If you send home a newsletter add a new app and tip each week. I don’t get to see my parents since I work in a school so I developed a set of handouts to send home. It includes 8 free and 8 paid (but all under $3) apps and ideas for using the apps to target speech and language skills.
Each handout includes direct links and 2-4 ideas for using it like an SLP would! They are written in parent-friendly language. They come in black and white or color. If you’d like to try out the handouts there is a free sample in the listing. Just select the large green button that says, PREVIEW. You also get an intro letter discussing how much technology the American Association of Pediatrics recommends for children and the Do This, Not That poster.
I’d love to hear how you are helping families utilize technology in preschool-aged students! Leave me a comment below!
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