- Use the dough to form a tongue, teeth, and lips. Then demonstrate what the tongue should do to make a vocalic r “er” sound (for example). Form teeth and show that the tongue must “tap” on the teeth to make a good /t/. Shape dough into smiling lips versus rounded lips to teach lip rounding for those kids who are having difficulty with lip rounded for various vowels and consonants. Those are just few examples. 99.9% of your kids will be more engaged using dough than picture cards. Try it!
- Need to teach a child who deletes final consonants how to “say the whole word?” Make it a sensory/tactile experience with dough. If working on CVC words like “cat” for instance, have the child make 2 balls, pancakes or even 2 cats! Teach them how to segment or say the word in slow motion. They should poke the first ball when they say “ca” and then poke the second ball (or pancake or cat) as they mark the end with a strong /t/! This same concept works with children nwho have apraxia. Need them to alternate CV syllables? Then make a bee and a bow out of dough, and have them practice ‘bee, bow, bee, bow, bee, bow,” while poking the shapes they are speaking about back and forth. Make sense? There’s something about simultaneous hand and mouth movements that make these speaking tasks easier for kids when they are just learning the skill, and it’s certainly more interactive than mindlessly saying repetitions. I use this same hand/mouth concept in my Tackling Apraxia therapy materials.
- Use articulation words for drill that coincide with the items they’re creating. This is especially handy for group therapy. Since students in group therapy typically have to take turns practicing their articulation targets, letting them create with dough is a focused and productive way for them to wait their turn until the SLP comes back around to them. I like to use lists that correspond to the “theme” we are using with the dough such as the ones included in my Bugs and Worms dough activities.
- And finally, challenge students to make shapes that start with their target phonemes.
- The sensory experience that comes with working with playdough is great for teaching about smooth versus bumpy speech. Create shapes that are smooth and bumpy, and discuss what that means in relation to the child’s speech. Have the student listen to your speech (with fake stuttering thrown in sometimes) and decide whether your speech was smooth or bumpy. Likewise, after any speaking task you’d like to have the child try, have the child decide which dough shape (smooth or bumpy) was most like his or her speech during the speaking task.
- I personally like to work on “stretching” and “chunking phrases” as fluency enhancing techniques, and using dough is a great way to teach those skills! What other fluency enhancing strategies could we teach with dough?
- When engaging in the “counseling” aspect of fluency, manipulating the dough could be therapeutic for your students.
- I’m probably in the minority, but I love teaching voice skills. I love educating students about the voice and about healthy voice behaviors. Dough is a great way to demonstrate our vocal folds moving nicely. Make vocal folds (especially for your kids with nodules!!) To do so, make “pancakes” as flat as they can be by rolling out the dough very thinly. Cut the dough to make 2 long strips of long, flat dough. Demonstrate how healthy vocal folds move by holding them both up and gently having them move in a waving motion against each other. Try to get them to “undulate” like real vocal folds do. Then make vocal folds that are less flat so that you can make them hit or bang against each other (without breaking unlike the thinner ones) to demonstrate a hard glottal attack to students. Explain that when they bang against each other (when we yell, clear our throat, cough, or make loud noises, revving noises, growling sounds, etc.) they eventually can form a nodule. Create a nodule with dough and put it in the vocal fold. Explain how that little nodule can change our voice.
- Discuss healthy and unhealthy vocal behavior and demonstrate what the vocal folds do for each one. For each behavior let the student decide if the voice folds are behaving like the healthy undulating vocal folds you made together or the “banging” vocal folds made of dough.
I squeeze, shape, poke and squish it when I’m stressed. I pick it up when I answer the phone, and I often roll it around in my hand while sitting in long meetings. It calms me, occupies me and helps me channel my emotions (I have a lot of them, y’all). Dough can do the same thing for our students. I don’t know about you, but over the course of my career, I’ve worked with many angry and/or fearful students. Dough activities can be soothing. Also, pounding, cutting, and squeezing can be productive way to release pent up energy. It can boost concentration, too. I don’t think there’s one SLP on the planet who hasn’t met a child who could use something to help him or her focus. On the communication front, I like to use it while discussing emotions. Playdough is fun to use to build faces with all sorts of emotions, and those activities can spark much-needed conversations about feelings and how to deal with our feelings.
So here is a confession before I leave you… while I have used dough at work for as long as I can remember, I didn’t allow it at home with my own kids! After one “Play-doh squashed into rug” incident, it was banned forever! I was younger and less wise then (not yet realizing that memories and fun are much more important than a clean and cute house). Now I am the cool aunt that breaks out the big box of playdough when my nephews and nieces come over (because it’s banned at their house also). Find a contained area that easy to clean and bust out the playdough OR just let loose and get messy. Kids big and small will thank you for it.