There is one toy I've been using in therapy since grad school: Mr. Potato Head!
All kids know him, and all kids love him! And there are SO MANY skills we can target with him! In this article, I will share with you how I use Mr. Potato Head to target different language goals!
1. Use 1-3 word utterances to request
To have children use their words to request, I hold 2 items and say something like "I have a nose and a mouth. Which one do you want?" Then, I wait for the child to request using 1 to 3 words, depending on his/her skills. The child can say "nose," "want nose," or "I want nose." For children that are already using 1 word utterances to communicate, I often use this visual to expand on their utterances.
For example, after the child requests by saying "nose" independently, I place the nose on the white space on the visual, and then point to each picture as I say the words: "I want nose." Then, I wait for the child to repeat the utterance. Once the child is able to request consistently given a model, I fade my prompting little by little. In future sessions, I just point to the pictures on the visual, without saying the words. Then, I just place the visual on the table and wait for the child to use the words. After that, I stop using the visual, and just remind the child to use his/her words when necessary by saying "use your words."
2. Follow 2 step directions
To target two step directions I place all the items on the table like shown in this picture.
Then, I ask the child to give Mr. Potato Head two items by saying something like "First give him arms, then, give him a nose." I can also target concepts like before/after by saying "Before you give him a nose, give him arms." If I'm working with a child at a "higher level" I often include multiple attributes in my directions, for example: "First, give him a yellow mouth, then give him a blue hat."
On the contrary, with children that require more prompting to complete the directions, I often use this visual to help them. As I say the direction, I place the items in the correct box, and then I wait for the child to complete the direction.
3. Identify/use pronouns he/she, her/his
If you have both Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, you can target pronouns he/she, her/his. First, make sure to introduce both characters saying something like "This is Mr. Potato Head. He is a boy! This is Mrs. Potato Head. She is a girl!" Then, depending on how much prompting the child needs, you can say something like "Remember! For boys we say HE! For girls we say SHE!" Then, ask the child to follow one step directions containing the target pronouns. For example: "Give her some eyes," "Find his eyes," "She is going to have a yellow hat," "He is going to have blue shoes"
To complement this activity, you can use this interactive video from Learning with Yaya to reinforce pronouns he/she.
4. Identify/label body parts
To target labeling, you can ask the child to label the body parts as you take them out, by asking "What are these?" "What is this?" To target identification, I ask the child to point to his/her own body parts once we completed Mr. Potato Head, or I give the child instructions to remove specific items during clean up time by saying "Take off his arms" or "Give me his eyes."
5. Identify basic colors
Below is the Potato Head I own. As you can see, it comes with arms, noses, ears, hats, glasses in a variety of colors. To target the child's ability to identify basic colors, I simply hold two items (2 noses, 2 hats, etc), and ask the child to get one by saying something like "Get the yellow nose." Sometimes the child refuses to get the one I asked for, simply because he/she wants the other item. In those cases, I say something like "I know you want this nose, and you can have it in a minute. But first, show me the one that is yellow."
You can integrate colors and body parts by using 1 steps directions. First, place all the items on the table (like shown in the picture below), and give the child directions such as "get the blue arms" or "put on the green ears."
To complement this activity, here is a fun song and "sing along" book from Learning with Yaya to practice and learn basic colors! You can find more songs like this one here.
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Yael Herszkopf Mayer MS, CCC-SLP is a pediatric, bilingual (English/Spanish) Speech and Language Pathologist and the creator of Learning with Yaya. She received her Masters of Science degree in Speech and Language Pathology- Bilingual Extension from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Clinical Psychology from Universidad de Iberoamérica in Costa Rica.
You listed colors and MLU activities, just one more step I have also used it to have children use adjectives in a sentence (“I want the pink ears.”) if you have multiple body parts to choose from ;-) gotta love Mr. Potatoe Head!
Mr. Potato Head is one of staples for therapy! My clients love it and I can target multiple skills. Thanks for the amazing blog!