Thursday, May 5, 2016

Therapy Tip: Puzzles for Speech-Language

Welcome to Therapy Thursday- the day I give a tip based upon my experience as a pediatric speech-language pathologist and a mother of a child with special needs.

Today's therapy tip is:

Puzzles For Speech-Language

Puzzles are a great tool when working with toddlers. Not only do they work on skills like matching and fine motor, but they can also be used to target speech and language goals.

Puzzles are easy to find and fairly inexpensive. Most of my puzzles were purchased at dollar stores or Wal-mart. Occasionally, I have purchased some through on-line specialty stores. But, you really don't have to look farther than a local store to find a puzzle to build speech-language skills.

When I'm looking for puzzles for my children in early intervention therapy, I'm thinking about what type of responses I can get from the child. I look for puzzles that can target a specific word or sound.

In general, I usually don't buy the puzzles that make sound effects. These are very popular in homes I go in, but too often, I see the child get distracted by the sound effect and not on an actual word.

If you are looking to buy a puzzle for your toddler or pre-schooler, then consider these things when you are shopping for a new puzzle or trying to figure out how to use puzzles you already own.

-Is your child working on single words?

Melissa & Doug Chunky Bundle - Vehicles & Construction                       Melissa & Doug 12 Pc Jigsaw Bundle - Farm & Pets
Finding puzzles to target single words or sound effects are the easiest. I like to use animal puzzles early on to model animal sounds (moo, bock-bock) and the names of animals. For the puzzle showing different vehicles, I might first just model the word "go" for a child with limited vocabulary. As the vocabulary increases, I will model harder words like train, boat, etc. If a puzzle seems to have no useful pictures or words to target, there's always the standard words: more, please, in.

-Is your child working on 2-3 word phrases?
Melissa & Doug Stacking Chunky - Bears
When a child is working on phrases, they are usually working on colors too. I like to use puzzles like this bear one pictured above where the only difference in the puzzle pieces is their color. This allows us to work on a phrase like "green/red/blue bear" or "I want bear."

-Is your child working on a specific speech sound?
Melissa & Doug See-Inside ABC (original)
I like to use alphabet puzzles to work on sounds in isolation (b-b-b). Usually with toddlers, I will try to have them only imitate part of the consonant sounds in the puzzle as doing all consonants in one sitting would be too much.

If your child is working on a specific sound like /f/ or /p/, look for a word with that sound that can be used while putting each piece of the puzzle in the board. Sometimes, finding the word targets are easy and sometimes this takes creativity. I have a fish puzzle which makes practicing /f/ in fish fairly easy. Other times, I have to look at my puzzles and see how I can incorporate speech articulation work in them.

**All pictured puzzles are from the Target online shop

Therapy Thursday is for educational purposes only and not intended as therapeutic advice.


  1. Wow is just the simple word that may explain that how much I liked it. It was nicely stuffed with the material I was looking for. It’s great to be here though by chance.speech language therapy


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