What is one of the oldest toys in history taking back to the 21st century BC? Dolls! Dolls can be used to target so many different Speech & Language goals– play skills, pronouns, social-emotional skills (perspective taking, diverse desires, problem solving), prepositions, basic concepts, and the list goes on! Read on for 10 ways to play with Dolls to Elicit Speech & Language.
#1 Play Skills
Relational play, creative play, and imaginative play can all be elicited with using dolls. Play is the foundation of speech & language and modeling age-level play is a great way to use dolls in therapy.
By 2, children should be able to exhibit relational play. With dolls, that would look like putting a doll in a chair, putting a hat on a doll, or giving a doll a bottle.
By 3, a child will show creative play. Having a plan of the baby doll being hungry and making them give a bottle or changing the baby doll’s diaper because it is dirty is creative play.
By 4, imaginative play is mastered. With baby dolls, a child could imagine that they need to go visit a doctor and use imaginary tools to check the baby or they could imagine they are the baby’s mom and are taking their baby to the store in their imaginary car.
Pronouns can be easily targeted with using dolls in speech & language therapy. Modeling and giving choices for pronouns. I love this diverse set of dolls (Basket of Buddies) you can find at Amazon. Here are a few examples:
Simple pronouns: I, you, me, he, she, my, your, mine
- I am going to give the baby her bottle!
- Is it your turn or my turn?
- He is so sleepy!
Possessive pronouns: their, yours, her, his, the baby’s, us, ours
- The baby’s shirt is in the bag.
- Is this his blanket or is it yours?
- This shoe is hers!
#3 Emotion/Feeling Vocabulary
This can be done through play and explicitly in a more structured way. These dolls linked here have 6 different expressions on their faces so you can explicitly work on emotion vocabulary with a visual.
#4 Social-Emotional Skills
Perspective taking, theory of mind, and building confidence can also be elicited with dolls.
- Perspective taking- taking on the perspective of the baby or the therapist during play. “I wonder if the baby is hungry now?”
- Theory of Mind- this doesn’t emerge until a child is 3 or 4 but can easily be elicited in play with dolls. “We are babysitting the baby and the momma is going to call to see how the baby is doing!” “We put the ball under the blanket, but the baby didn’t see that, where will the baby look for the ball first?”
- Confidence and self-esteem- taking care of a doll allows your student’s confidence and self-esteem to grow. It also taps into the area of the brain that strengthens empathy.
Using dolls for prepositions can be done easily during play. You can use this Basket of Babies set from Amazon to target spatial concept vocabulary like:
- Put her in the basket
- I’m going to put all of them next to the basket
- Let’s carry her inside of the basket with her blanket
#6 Body Parts
Working on body parts comes easily with playing with baby dolls. Less structured in play models is great– “Let’s put the shoe on the baby’s foot not on the baby’s head!”, “Oh, we can check his ear!”, “Does the baby want a hat on his head?” Then explicitly asking your student to identify and name the body parts for carry-over can be targeted. This doll and accessories are great for this goal.
Baby doll clothing is too cute. Shoes, hats, pants, bibs, shirts, pajamas, etc. are often part of the doll sets. You can combine clothing with pronouns and body parts or keep it simple.
#8 Environmental Sounds
Environmental sounds used during play with baby dolls is a great foundation for verbalizations for speech & language goals. These sounds that infants and toddlers then children naturally make in development help to share their sounds needed for speech production and then their language. Some children that are developmental delayed, need extra models and repetitions to practice those sounds. Sounds like:
- Crying sounds
- Sleeping/snoring sounds
- Eating sounds
#9 Articulation and speech production
Articulation and speech production can be elicited with playing with baby dolls in therapy. Auditorily bombarding the phoneme or syllable shape that your student is working on or using a specific word list while playing can be used.
#10 WH questions
Asking and answering WH questions during play with dolls to elicit speech & language therapy can be utilized.
- What should we do if the baby is thirsty?
- I wonder if the baby knows where I put his shoe! I can’t find it!
- Why do you think the baby is crying?
- Who is going to give the baby his bottle?
How do you use dolls to elicit speech & language therapy?
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This is a really great demonstration