We’re in month four of this pandemic. If you’re reading this, I hope you are well, and thank you for visiting. I’ve obviously had plenty of time to get on here and write, but I’ve been in such a funk. Like many of you, I jumped into telepractice, and while I’m still providing some services through teletherapy, I’ve recently returned to doing some face to face therapy. I am a little shell shocked about how differently planning for sessions has been. All I think about is germs. I should say that, prior to Covid-19 I was not someone concerned about germs. In fact, I didn’t much think about contamination or contagions. I washed my hands or used hand sanitizer here and there when I felt I needed to, but for the most part, I didn’t think it about it much.
MY how things have changed! I have a stash of 24+ year of therapy materials and now, as I prepare for therapy, most of them seem unusable. I just can’t use: Play-doh, sensory bins, cloth dolls, plush toys or puppets, soft rubber/sticky toys, mini erasers, etc. I’m not even using crayons anymore. Now I find myself only using colored pencils so that I can wipe them down. I even find myself steering clear of electronic games or toys I’ve used because I can’t really give them a good washing.
Basically, all I think about is… is it washable? Do I have a way to safely use it with the next child? I don’t want to be the reason someone gets ill.
See those hard plastic toys above? Those are my new go-tos! I mean, for me, animals figurines have always been a must have for therapy because I can target so many goals with them: concepts of all kinds (size, position, quantity, colors, etc.) turn taking, requesting, following directions, describing, narratives, actions/noun/adjective vocab, emotions, wh-questions, and the list goes on for eternity. I have everything from small TOOBS animals to really large one for not-so-nimble hands. But now they’re REALLY my jam because I can wash them with a bleach mixture or antibacterial soap and hot water and they’ll dry just fine – good as new! If you’re a new SLP, you’ll definitely want to beef up your collection of animals figures. Below are some that I have and recommend. Click on the images to follow the links (which are affiliate links).
TOOBS are small animals. If you need bigger, Go for these!! I own them and use them all the time for less coordinated children OR for kids whose attention cannot be attracted by tiny toys:
While I DO still use plush animals, puppets, and dolls in teletherapy, I’ve put them aside for face to face therapy.
For people figurines, I’m sticking to my Fisher Price Little People that I know wash up well. I shopped for new people figurines and was highly disappointed by the lack of diversity, and given recent events, I will no longer settle for caucasian family sets or “diverse” sets that portray black or brown individuals as a policemen, a fireman, a farmer or a construction worker. Here is a disappointing example below from Constructive Playthings that is a non-option for me:
I’ve been seriously shocked by the stereotypes displayed in toys. To be very honest, I never saw that until now. I hope it’s better late than never that I recognize that. Come on, toy companies! Get your act together!
I did order this small set by Fisher Price (again very washable), and it’s yet to arrive but I am continuing to look for more:
I’ve also put away my wooden toys, wooden blocks and felt sets. Both Lego and Duplo Sets wash up nicely, though, and most kids love them.
I have them “earn” their blocks with target sound tasks at the isolation, word, phrase or sentence level during artic therapy, and during language therapy, they can earn their blocks by completing whichever skill we are targeting such as labeling nouns, actions, attributes OR following directions, OR answering a question, etc. It can work for just about any skill. Here is a great Duplo starter set for your younger kids. It even comes with building cards so they can make some simple designs. Mostly, my kids love to stack them as high as they can until they fall down, though. Hey, works for me!!
There is no need to buy a fancy set of Legos for your older kids. Just buy a base plate like the one below (so easy to clean) and random sets of colored bricks. I get my sets of bricks at the Dollar Tree!! Sometimes, I can even find small base plates at the Dollar Tree.
Luckily my favorite toy for my littles is 100% washable and I can still use it to bring on the smiles – and of course- the LANGUAGE! Fat Brain’s Spin Again Stacking Toy is something I didn’t have to put aside. If you do early intervention, I highly recommend it. Thanks to my friend Kari for turning me on to it! It’s great for requesting (or EARNING) a piece. The pieces spin down the spiral pole (it’s truly mesmerizing- I kid you not), and then kids can lift the pole to make them all fall down!
You can also see more of my favorite therapy and office items by clicking above in the menu or here on the words “MY FAVORITE THINGS.”
Before I go, I have to talk a little bit about how my planning has changed.
Disposable plastic storage bags are my new best friends. For some of my clients, I have to travel to a daycare. On those days, everything goes in its own disposable, plastic storage bag before therapy and goes right back in it after use. I also bring one for trash (mask, gloves, etc.) in case there are no appropriate places to dispose of the things I used. Everything is kept separately, which makes for longer planning and careful packing. In that past, I just “chunked” everything in my bag before therapy and tossed it back in the bag after use. After my sessions are done, my travel bag gets disinfected along with my face shield and all the materials we used. It’s not fun or convenient but… well, let’s be honest, it’s a pain in the butt, but it’s important. Even for the sessions at my home, nothing touches the table (which is wiped down thoroughly before the child arrives) and it all goes in a bag or bin to be washed or in the trash immediately after use.
I should mention, I know many of you don’t know what the future holds with your job, and this post wasn’t meant to make you anxious, but this “going back” to face to face has really got me thinking. I just thought I’d share and do some of the thinking for you. I wish you all the very best with this new normal. Staying healthy and safe -and keeping kids healthy and safe – is the most important thing for us to focus on right now. Yes, even if that means therapy isn’t as fun or engaging (I can’t believe I’m saying that but it’s true).
Be careful out there, friends!