Bubbles. Let me count the ways (I use them). Bubbles basically live in the bottom of my therapy bags and don't ever get put away, because everyone under age 5 is gonna be happy with bubbles and they are a great emergency activity if a session is going off the rails! Here are some different ways I use bubbles to work on speech and language therapy goals for my little clients. I use bubbles to target:
- Lip closure for the /p/ sound in "pop!"
- Two-syllable words like "buhbuh!" or "bubbos!"
- Requesting "more" with a single word or sign
- Requesting with a phrase or sentence ("more bubbles" or "I want bubbles" are regulars)
- Body part vocabulary (e.g., Pop the bubbles with your elbow! Now with your feet!)
- Prepositions — deciding where to blow the bubbles (e.g., in the bucket, under the chair, on the table, etc.)
- Present progressive -ing verbs — we use different actions to pop the bubbles (e.g., stomping, clapping, poking, waving, punching, etc.)
- Past tense verbs (e.g., What happened? It popped!)
- Turn taking (this sets an early foundation for the back-and-forth of conversation)
- Pronouns (e.g., my turn, your turn, her turn, etc.)
Bubbles can also be a great way to break up the work of a session (and trust me, while my job may look like playing, my clients are working hard at things that don't always come easily; making brand new brain connections is effortful!). They can also be a valuable tool to help with transitions. Here are some ways bubbles help me have a successful session:
- Bubble break: If effort is high or enthusiasm is waning, simply taking 3-4 quick turns blowing and popping bubbles helps immensely in getting back on track.
- Bubble reward: While I don't generally use classic reward systems, some kids really respond well to a structured pattern of doing 3-5 attempts at or repetitions of a skill then getting a very quick turn with the bubbles before the next few attempts.
- Bubbles for movers: Many toddlers need to move to stay with me, attention-wise. They need to jump up, bounce around, or full-on run across the living room to be able to attend to the next activity. Blowing a huge ton of bubbles and having them pop them as fast as they can is a great way to work movement into a session. So is running while dragging the bubble wand to let the air blow the bubbles for us. The point is to make it fun, quick, and a helpful/regulating strategy that keeps us focused together on our work.
- Goodbye bubbles: Sometimes my clients are sad to know that I am packing up my bag of fun things and heading out! They just want to play with one more toy or do one more game and, sadly, our time is up. I've had great success helping them transition to saying goodbye by setting up a routine where, at the end of every session, we each get a turn to blow bubbles once I'm standing outside the front door. Just a quick "My turn! Now your turn!" and then I quickly slip the bubbles back into my packed bag and a happy goodbye follows easily.
How do you like to use bubbles in your sessions or with your own child? I'm always looking for new ideas for this versatile toy and I'm sure there are almost limitless variations on how to use them in speech therapy and beyond.