Are you setting up for preschoolers in your speech therapy?
When I visit Facebook groups, I see posts all the time from SLPs who are asking for advice on how to get started with preschool-aged children. Maybe you have served older children before, or maybe you are a new CFY and are starting out fresh. (By the way, pre-k speech therapy is awesome, you will have so much fun. I promise. Pinky swear.)
You have a limited budget, right?
Let’s face it, setting up a speech therapy room from scratch can be expensive. If you are a CFY, haven’t been practicing long, or have changed settings, you need to gather some essentials.
Unfortunately, many school-based SLPs are on their own reaching deep into their pocket for supplies and materials. If you are lucky, you may get a small allowance for supplies.
You need the most bang for your buck and are wondering what are the most recommended, just can’t live without it basics you will need? You might have some ideas for your older students, but what about preschoolers?
So what materials do you really need?
You would be surprised that you can do with just a few items, some imagination, and willingness to sing, act crazy, silly, goofy and get down and play! Still, it’s very helpful to have a supply of age-appropriate toys, games and craft materials. Here are my recommendations, along with how to get supplied without breaking the bank, if your district does not give you a generous budget. Or no budget (sad face).
1. Basic Supplies:
In addition to basic office supplies, you will need tissues, antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer, and lots of it! Preschool means plenty of runny noses. It’s a fact.
SLPs are always creating activities to meet their student’s goals, and need some basic supplies. Here’s what I keep in my speech room.
- Baggies- several sizes. I love the ones that zip.
- Hook and loop tape or dots. Or both!
- Plastic shoeboxes or tubs for water and sensory play- fill with water, rice, beans, packing noodles, etc.
- A cookie sheet to contain messes and provide a backdrop for activities
- Hot glue gun
- Page protectors
- Permanent markers
- Large magnetic whiteboard. (Alternately, the side of a file cabinet works great!)
- Magnetic tape or dots
- Package tape
- Lamination pouches if you do not have access to a school laminator.
Thrifty TIP 2: Ask your district for hook and loop tape or dots.
You may need it for making visual schedules and not just games and activities. I like the dots, but you can buy a roll a bit cheaper, and cut it. Use pieces large enough to get the job done, but be conservative, and it will last longer.
|These last a long time, my kids get to do one dot for each response.|
2. Arts and Crafts supplies:
Even if you are not artsy-craftsy, I encourage you to do hands-on activities with your littles. They offer so many language opportunities and keeps little hands busy too. Resist diving in and doing too much of the project to “help.” Give your preschoolers the opportunity to do the work themselves and let them really create and explore.
Need arts and crafts ideas? Pinterest is chock full of them. Head over and check out Speech Sprouts on Pinterest here.
- Construction paper
- Washable markers
- Gluesticks and white glue
- Dot markers
- Paint- tempera and or watercolors
- Play dough
- Paper plates
- Paper bags
- A hole punch
- Craft sticks
- A large adult-sized button down shirt, for a painting smock.
- Cotton balls
- Colored tissue paper
- Wiggle eyes
- Ink pads and stamps
- Shaving cream (Great for sensory play!)
- Toothbrushes (for painting, sanitized old ones work fine)
- Pipe cleaners
- Pom poms
- Cookie cutters
Thrifty TIP 3: See if your Pre-K and Kinder teachers are willing to share.
Classrooms are usually stocked with supplies like paintbrushes and scissors, and teachers may not mind you borrowing. This usually works especially well if you do in-class therapy.
Thrifty TIP 4: Send your parents a “wishlist.”
If you are in a school where parents can afford to send supplies, send home a “wishlist” at the beginning of the year asking for consumables. Send one home before the holidays too. Or post it on your school web page. I ask parents to send one or two items if they can.
|Be sure the doll can survive a bath!|
- A doll, preferably one that can stand a bath!
- Plastic animals- pets, zoo animals, dinosaurs, ocean animals, farm animals
- Toy food
- Toy pots, pans, cups, and dishes
- Cars and trucks
- A ball (Yay for eliciting verbs! “Throw it, roll it, catch it”)
- Magnetic bingo chips and a magnetic wand. (A million and one uses)
- Foam dice
|A have a million ways to use bingo chips.|
- Miniature toys for a “feely bag” or to bury in a sensory bin. (Little ones get so excited ‘finding” surprises. Just be careful your students are old enough/ mature enough so they are not mouthing these, they can be a choking hazard.)
- Themed play sets: a farm or a play house are my favorites.
- Puppets for storytelling and imaginative play.
- Puzzles- I like to give a piece at a time as a reinforcer during drills.
- Bean bags
- Mr. Potato Head
- A doctor kit
- Ball popper toys- you squeeze them to “shoot” a ball. Fun!
|Use Mr. Potato Head to target body parts and pronouns.|
|Use toy animals for position concepts, verbs and more!|
Thrifty TIP 5: Ask for donations of used items.
Put some of these toys on your wishlist, and share it with your staff and parent organization too. If you are a member of a church, let them know you are accepting donations of preschool books, toys, and games. Parents with older children are often glad to donate used toys when they clean out their children’s toy boxes. If you receive something you can’t use, just donate to a classroom or charity.
|Collect toys for imaginative play.|
Thrifty TIP 6: Shop yard sales and garage sales.
You will be amazed at what you can find on the cheap. Dolls, miniatures, buckets, and bins are usually easy to find. I only pick up games when they are simple, quick play and do not require batteries! Enlist your bargain-hunting friends and family to keep their eye out for your wishlist items when they shop yard sales too.
|Saved this from when my boys were little!|
Thrifty TIP 7: Buy consumables with your school budget.
Do you have a budget from your school to spend, but plan to spend some of your own money too? Use your school budget first for consumable supplies (like paper, paint, baggies, and cotton balls) and buy therapy materials with your money. That way, your materials are yours to keep and take with you if you change settings or schools.
Thrifty TIP 8: Shop thrift stores for games, puzzles, books, and toys.
I stop by our local thrift store often, as the merchandise changes all the time.
3: Story Books
Engaging story books that help you target specific goals are definitely a must-have item and fortunately, most schools and communities will have a selection in the library you can borrow. Free is good! Just be sure to check out the books you need well in advance, so they’re not out when you need them. But how do you find the right ones?
My favorite books for preschool language are those that have a simple storyline, repetitive text, and wonderful pictures.
You can spend a ton of time sorting through them in the library, or let me introduce you to my favorites!
Check out this list of Speech Sprouts posts that review my very favorite story books.
Follow me on Pinterest. I have boards dedicated to repetitive storybooks, storybooks read online and I am always pinning more storybooks and storybook activities.
Be sure to head over and read my post on Sound-Loaded Books for Articulation. Next, grab the FREE list in my store HERE. Please remember to leave a sweet comment in feedback when you do, I truly appreciate it, and read every one.
|This huge list is FREE! Click HERE.|
Thrifty TIP 9: Check with your school librarian to see if books are sorted for discards, and when.
See if some of the less circulated or worn books may be given away at some point. My school does this a couple times a year. Let them know you need specific books. See if you can make your selections as soon as this happens (before the books are too picked over), to build your therapy library. I call dibs!
4. Articulation Materials
- A good comprehensive collection of words and pictures for early developing phonemes and phonological processes. There are many books available commercially, such as the Webber Articulation Drill Book. (I receive no compensation for this recommendation, I have just personally used this one.)
- Articulation cards and activities- there are plenty available commercially. Buy cards ready made, or purchase from SLPs on Teachers pay Teachers and print them out yourself.
- Remember those miniatures? I have baggies of them sorted by phoneme. For instance, a star, a stamp, a stick, a stop sign, “storybook”, a stocking, and a guy I named Steve for initial /st/. I pop these in a Christmas stocking in December, and we practice as we pull each item out of the stocking. Works great for sentence level articulation too “I found a stop sign in my stocking.”
Thrifty TIP 10: If you don’t mind spending some time printing and laminating, you will save money and you find a bigger variety of resources by SLP authors on Teachers pay teachers. You will find packs with cards that are often packaged with fun printable activities to keep preschoolers engaged and busy. There are also many resources for free.
Having versatile therapy materials that are ready to go makes planning your sessions easy.
I love materials that I can use with a variety of children and goals, such as this build a scarecrow game /sk/ articulation fun) from my Articulation and Language Activities for SK.
You can also find this pack available in my S-Blend Speech and Language Articulation Bundle:
Read About My Favorite Service Delivery Model for Preschool
There are many service delivery models that work well for our littles, depending on their needs. The traditional pull out, in-class services, and co-teaching all work well for many students. I have dabbled in all of these, and love my current literacy-based large group model.
Read about it here: An Intensive Service Delivery For Preschool Speech Therapy Questions? Ask me any questions you like, because I really love sharing about it!
What are your favorite tips and materials for preschool speech therapy?
Oh, and before I go, if you haven’t gotten your free download of “Where’s Froggy”, you really need to to grab this great preschool prepositions activity now. It is only available to my newsletter subscribers, so sign up in the sidebar or in the pop-up and I will send you the link pronto!