Using Open-Ended Board Games in Speech Therapy

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Do you use open-ended board games in speech? We have our favorites, which we will get to, but sometimes it’s really nice to have games that don’t take up much space. Games are awesome for mixed groups, but can be used for so much more as well!

Using open-ended board games in speech therapy

Using Printable Board Games

The main reason we LOVE printable board games is because they are so easy to store! I (Sydney), personally, really like to store my games in file folders. After I print them out and laminate them, I grab a file folder and a zip baggy. I attach the game board to the file and store the little pieces in the baggy. Then, I attach the ziploc to the file folder using the paper clip I will use for the spinner! It makes it so much easier to grab and go without having to search for pieces.

Why we use board games in speech therapy

The possibilities are really endless with board games. Even if you think a student might be too young or too old, try a board game anyway! I’ve had 8th graders beg for Pop-Up Pirate! Below are ideas of how to use games across different targets, but can easily be mixed.

1. Articulation

This is probably the area where most people use board games in speech therapy. Using board games during articulation therapy is pretty straightforward. Alex and I both like to have our kiddos say their speech sound (or word or phrase or sentence) 3x or 5x before they can take a turn. After we hear 3 or 5 great productions, the student gets to take a turn. This is honestly how I spend most of my articulation sessions. The kids are motivated and have something to do while the others in the group practice their speech.

2. Language

Some games are awesome for eliciting language! However, you can use almost any game for language, especially in early intervention. Board games are a great way to introduce turn taking and directions to little ones. For older kids, I like to use games as a way to practice expository narratives. Students working on narratives can practice giving instructions to their peers. This is an important skill since the order of the rules are really important in games. If you have students working on goals such as irregular nouns/verbs, metaphors, etc., just pair the student’s turn with language flash cards. Games like the ones listed below are great for basic vocabulary such as “push” and “in” and “up”.

3. Social Skills

I love using board games with kids working on social skills. There’s so much you can target from turn-taking to winning/losing appropriately to playing “fair”. For turn taking, it’s pretty straightforward. Many kids on the autism spectrum have a hard time understanding that each person gets to take a turn and the order stays the same. This is even common with kids with ADHD and other disorders. The next thing I like to work on is not being a “sore loser” or bragging about winning. I like to discuss how we say, “Good game!” after we win or lose. We also talk about how we don’t throw things or knock the game off the table when we lose. Last, I really like to talk about playing fair. This includes not cheating or spoiling the game for others. This was a common lesson last week as one student kept giving away the answer in Headbanz.

Our favorite games

This candy board game in our Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) store is a favorite of ours. It takes about 20-30 minutes to create and then it’s no-prep every other time after that! I love using a pencil and paper clip for the spinner. We also have these awesome seasonal/holiday board games, as well as a safari and camping themed games!

For eliciting language, I love using Ned’s Head. If you don’t have it, put it on your wishlist now and get it ASAP! Players reach into Ned’s Head to find objects pictured on cards (there are items such as a stinky gym sock and a pea brain). My favorite way to play this game is to have one student describe the item on the card (e.g., It feels bumpy, has four legs, and a shell) while the other student has to try to find it.

Pop-Up Pirate is awesome for kids of any age. It’s so quick to set up and can played multiple times per session.

Catch the Fox is one of my favorites. Kids always wonder where the foxes pants go! This in another one that doesn’t take any time to set up and everyone loves it. I will warn you though, the chickens can roll all over the place.

I love using Shark Bite with kids working on skilled movements. This game is super engaging and kids get pretty competitive! It’s pretty quick to set up and usually only takes a few minutes until someone wins.

I think every student on my caseload is obsessed with Pop the Pig. I love it because it takes some gross motor skills, counting, and color identification. Even the 8th graders have fun with this game.

Jumping Jack is super cute and great for kids who may not have the coordination skills to play Pop-Up Pirate. I also like incorporating it into a spring theme.

Ok, last one… My internship supervisor is obsessed with this game. It’s super gross, which means middle schoolers think it’s awesome. Pimple Pete is gross and weird, but engaging and fun. If you pull too hard on a pimple, water squirts out his nose!

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