Speech and Language Delay–Games and Exercises

My experience of working with young children with speech delays and such like, comes from teaching early years and key stage one children for many years. During this time, I taught lots of children with speech and language issues and worked alongside speech therapists during reviews of progress.  I just want to say, I am NOT a qualified Speech and Language Therapist, however, my ideas for games to play with these children, have been put together based on the sorts of things I would’ve done in school with these children.  After a request for ideas from one of the Facebook followers, I got J to play some of these games to exemplify what to do.  I hope you find it useful.

The muscles in our lips, tongue, jaw etc are important to produce clear speech sounds. Therefore, working these muscles is crucial to improve speech delays.  Most children develop these muscles naturally through everyday activities but for those who struggle with speech sounds seeing a qualified Speech and Language Therapist should be the first step.

Simple Exercises:

The most simple way to exercise those oral muscles, is by drinking through a straw.  The sucking action helps to strengthen the muscles at the back of the tongue. This can help with pronouncing sounds such as ‘k’ as in kick and ‘g’ as in gang.  You can make this activity more challenging and more fun by giving your child a longer straw!! The longer the straw, the more challenging it is to get any liquid!  Those swirly, novelty straws are also more fun! J thought it was hilarious using the long straw!

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Oral Exercises; Games and Activities:

In order to strengthen all of the muscles necessary for speech; in the tongue, lips and jaw, I came up with this ‘Silly Face’ game and J loved it.  Firstly, I took photo’s of J with a silly pair of glasses on – this was just for fun and then allocated points to each ‘silly face.’  They were actually mouth positions needed for each of the sounds in our phonetic alphabet.  If you go through the alphabet to begin with and over emphasise your mouth position, whilst looking in the mirror, you will see a lot of them are repeated.  Once we had a face cards, I left J to look at the photo’s and copy the ‘silly face.’  J is too young to really grasp the point system; this is good for children older than J (he has just turned 3).  J loved looking in the mirror and watching his face.  You can see in the second photo, that J had tongue exercises too, for making sounds such as ‘l’ in ‘lion.’


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As I mentioned before, sucking helps develop the muscles on the back of our tongues.  Blowing helps to develop the muscles that control our lips .  These are necessary to pronounce words like, ‘p’ in pin and ‘b’ in bat. 

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The two games pictured above, cover both blowing and sucking!  In the first two photo’s, we raced two cotton balls by blowing them through a straw.  This could also be played with ping pong balls on water. The second two pictures are sucking up a small piece of card through a straw.  We were seeing who could hold onto it longest.  It was a lot of fun!

The game below is a cleaner activity than bubble painting but was just as entertaining and again, it develops the lip muscles.  Putting out a tub of water, giving them a straw and asking them to blow as many bubbles as possible!  This needs close supervision as does any water activity! To see a bubble painting version follow this link…  http://theimaginationtree.com/2012/01/straw-blown-paintings.htmlspeech 9

Children love a funny noise, so this slide whistle proved very popular with J and it is another way of developing those mouth muscles!  speech 10speech12

Pronunciation Games and Activities:

We created a finger puppet of a robot.  The reason we made a robot was so we could talk the way robots do!! This allows for slowed down, over – pronunciation.  When playing this game, all participants, parents included, can have a go at pronouncing the difficult sounds. So, if your child pronounces cat as ‘tat,’ they can watch your mouth doing an ‘over the top’ ‘c’ and then have a go themselves. This is also a great game for developing any child’s ability to segment words into sounds and longer words into syllables; essential for spelling!

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Another idea for dealing head-on with those sounds your child has difficulty in saying, is using a story tray.  I am using ‘sl’ as an example.  Let’s pretend J struggles to pronounce the ‘sl’ blend of letters at the beginning of words.  I drew pictures to represent slipper, slug, sleep, slam, slow and slice.  I also wrote the words underneath.  I then showed J each card and over pronounced each one, with emphasis on the ‘sl’ bit of the word.   As this was the first time J had played this game, I modelled for J how to use the cards to make up a story.  I asked him to have a go and told him he had to use all the pictures and say the words very slowly (to help with accurate pronunciation).  J loves stories, so this was a real hit with him!

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I hope this gives you one or two ideas about helping your child develop their oral muscles and improve their speech delay. If you’re worried about your child’s speech, you should see a qualified Speech and Language Therapist.



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