We don’t eat potatoes! We PLAY with them!
Parents often ask ways in which they can play with their child while also working on their language skills at home. Mr. Potato head is one of many favorite toys kids request to play with during speech-language therapy sessions. You may be pleasantly surprised with the number of language skills that can be addressed with Mr. Potato Head! Here are a few examples:
Vocabulary: Mr. Potato Head is a great tool for teaching both expressive (labeling) and receptive (identifying) vocabulary skills. The parts for Mr. Potato Head target vocabulary including clothing, body parts, and colors. Here are 2-ways in which this vocabulary can be used: having the child locate the item (often in a choice of 2 or 3 pieces) or name them as they choose what piece they would like next.
Language: For receptive language, give the child a clue or a description of the piece that you want them to find. “Find something that Mr. Potato Head uses to protect his feet” or “Find something that Mr. Potato Head smells with”. Expressively, the child may be required to use a phrase or sentence to acquire their desired piece: “I pick shoes” or “I want red hat”. Wh- questions are also easily elicited: “What does Mr. Potato Head need for his head?” “Where is his hand?”
Concepts: Spatial, quantative, and descriptive concepts are also easily targeted with Mr. Potato Head. Concepts such as top, middle, bottom, side, between, etc. can be identified or labeled. Colors and sizes are another basic concept that can be addressed.
Articulation: In addition to language skills, articulation can be focused on while using Mr. Potato Head. Its many pieces and descriptions used during this activity can elicit a broad range of phonemes. A carrier phrase containing target phonemes for articulation practice can also be used. For example, a child may be working on /k/ in final position of phrases or sentences. For example, a carrier phrase: “I pick ___ “can be used to elicit the /k/ final sounds in multiple trials during this activity.
Play Skills: Parallel play, pretend play and associative play can be implemented with Mr. Potato Head. Toddlers between the ages of 18 months and 2 years generally engage in “parallel play”, a basic social skill of playing near a peer but not necessarily with the peer. Following parallel play, the skill of “pretend play” generally emerges. This is a skill in which toddler may begin narrating while playing as well as expanding their play scenarios. Lastly, “associative play” is a skill in which toddlers and preschoolers start playing with the same objects/materials. Children may imitate each other, interact together, and even exchange objects or materials.
Social & Pragmatic Skills: Mr. Potato Head can be used to facilitate turn taking, demonstrate personal space, eye contact, and joint attention. Mr. Potato Head generally contains multiple pieces to allow for varied facial expressions. Use this as a moment to reinforce feelings. A happy face or a sad face can be generated simply by manipulating how his mouth piece is placed, while soothing, hugging, or hitting Mr. Potato Head – all important skills for understanding and using appropriate social and pragmatic skills including emotions.
Choosing Between Two Objects: Although it may sound basic, providing children and toddlers the opportunity to choose between two objects is an encouraging way to promote the use of and development of language skills.
Plurals: Two ears, one hat. Eight pieces. Teach your child about numbers and plural vs. singular noun forms.
Categories & Associations: Can your child sort objects according to color, clothing, body part, pairs, and so on? Can your child state how certain pieces go together? Mr. Potato Head is an excellent source for teaching kids the concept of identifying and labeling categories and associations. “Things for its head,” “Pieces that are red,” “Different types of shoes”.
A few additional skills: Encourages play skills, helps children understand and use plurals, participate in sequencing, and following directions.
As you can see, there are so many ways to work on speech and language with simple activities that you already have in your home. Please free to contact any of the SLPs at Pediatric Therapy Center if you have further questions about how you can incorporate your child’s specific needs with games and toys in your home!
Britt Krizmanich, M-SLP, CCC