An Entire Speech-Language Therapy Session Using a Pencil

The purpose of this blog is not to teach you how to play with a pencil, but to teach you HOW to think about using a single object to teach multiple concepts to your toddler.

Let’s start small and expand. What do we have in front of us? We have a pencil. Let’s see how creative we can get, and how many ways we can use this pencil to teach multiple concepts.

We can start by describing the pencil and teach ADJECTIVES:

It’s yellow, it can be sharp, or dull, its shape is round, it has a pointy tip, and a soft eraser. How about its weight? It’s very light, not heavy.

We can move on to what we can do with the pencil and teach VERBS:

The pencil can roll, we can make it stop, it can stand, it can fall, it can also break! (snap in two)

Now that we have more than one pencil, we can work on NUMBERS.

I had one pencil, now I have two! Or three!

With the multiple pencils we can share, and work on PRONOUNS:

I have a pencil, you have a pencil, this is my pencil, that is your pencil, if we put them together and share, we can make it our pencil. Can you give him a pencil? Can you give her a pencil?

Now let’s think about location of the pencil and teach PREPOSITIONS:

The pencil is on the table, under the table, next to the table, behind, in front. It’ in my pocket. It’s out of my pocket.

After prepositions you can also work on answering “WHERE” questions.

Once the pencil is on the table, you can ask, “Where is the big pencil? On the table!”, “Where is the little pencil? On the chair!” “Where is the pencil now? Under the table!

Now we can practice TURN TAKING.

You have the child draw first, then you ask for a turn. Keep it short and go back and forth. You can keep the language short and simple and practice my turn, your turn. Or you can scribble with the piece that has a point, and erase with the piece that has the eraser, and trade back and forth. (Trading one-for-one is an excellent way to teach turning taking and sharing.)

Now that you’ve done all of that you can talk about OBJECT FUNCTION.

What do we do with a pencil? We draw, we write, we scribble, we share.

A pencil can get boring. A preferred toy will lose it’s luster over time. I understand. Challenge yourself and see how fun YOU can make YOURSELF and see how long the child will last playing with a single toy while you work on multiple outcomes. Stretch the limits of their attention by asking them to “do one more then all done!” when they want to leave the activity. See how fun and creative you can be with ordinary objects. See how you can play with a familiar toy a little different this time to teach a new concept.

Some of these concepts may not apply to every toy, but you get the idea. Try it with a single can of playdoh, or Legos, or potato head. Here is a great list of toys for toddlers that you can use to practice some of these skills.

As you begin to build this skill, you will start to become more creative with how you use the objects around you to teach. You will also have more confidence that you don’t need a giant bag of toys to teach. Once you start to see more toys or objects beyond their face value, you will start to see ALL the objects around you as potential teaching tools.

Have fun!

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About the Author


Drake Hastings is a speech-language pathologist who specializes in speech, oral motor, and feeding therapy for kids. Drake has a passion for working with children and families while helping children achieve goals using a fun and motivating approach to learning.

Drake’s main areas of focus within the practice are feeding therapy, and speech (sound production) therapy. Drake has experience working with children who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Apraxia of Speech, Dysarthria, Down Syndrome, and rare genetic disorders. Drake has experience working and collaborating with a wide variety of families and therapeutic team members while treating children of all ages.

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