Using Wind-up Toys in Speech (Beyond “More”)

Wind-up toys and speech therapy go together like peanut butter and jelly (or chocolate and wine, depending on your leanings).  But often therapists who see students older than toddlers/preschoolers tend to pass these mechanical gems by because they assume that they’re best suited for “more” and other basic communication requests.

Not even close!

Wind-up toys are one of my go-to activities for all ages because they offer a brief, real-life animation.  Here’s how I use them:

  • Vocabulary: You can find seasonal wind-up toys especially for Halloween, Christmas/winter and spring that allow for a memorable, interactive experience. Match the wind-up toy to a picture card or have some open-ended play.
  • Prepositions: It’s fun to “catch” a wind-up toy “under” a large cup or have it fall “off” the table. (Catch it so it doesn’t break!) Watch them walk “on” a book or “behind” a box. Lots of options here!
  • Verbs: I always use wind-up toys when I’m starting on verbs, especially for –ing verb forms. Grab a bunch with different movements like walking, hopping, jumping, dancing, flipping, etc. My Christmas wind-ups above show walking, dancing, skiing and carrying (a present).
  • Pronouns: Ideally, I’ll have a male and a female character that do the same action (ex. “He is dancing. She is dancing.”), but as long as you have an assortment of wind-ups with an obvious gender, you’ll be ok.

  • Articulation/Categories/Rhyming tracks: You can adapt this to whatever you’re working on, but the targets listed here are what I most often use. Make a quick grid on a piece of paper. (I usually do “tracks” of 5 squares across the 8.5” width of paper.) I’ll have students come up with 5 items in a category or 5 rhyming words. I might have them say 5 artic words and any that are “nice job” productions fill a square. Now, we wind-up a character and see if it can hop or walk as far as the squares we filled in. My kiddos love this game!

  • Grammar/syntax: Draw a quick, straight line path on a piece of paper and either draw in additional objects or set up other miniatures and characters on the side. Now, wind-up a figure and narrate the action, “The cow is walking past the tree.”

Got some other ideas? Let us know below!

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Erin Taraboletti

    I love these ideas! Especially the grid and the path for grammar/syntax. I see windup toys in my future 🙂

  2. Kristen

    Love these great ideas! Any suggestions on where to get wind-up toys? I’m always hesitant to order online, since I can’t test them out, but haven’t had much luck finding them in stores. Thanks for your help!

    1. admin

      Kristen, Sorry for the delayed response! I used to buy mine at Michael’s but lately, I haven’t found any there (your store may be different). My local, independent toy store does carry them and the other day I did find a bunch at CVS. I have ordered them from Amazon and haven’t had any issues with them not working. Hope this helps! Kim

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The views expressed in this blog are my own and are intended to inspire other speech-language pathologists in their own practice. If you are a parent, teacher or other educator, these ideas are not intended to take the place of treatment by a certified clinician. Read full disclaimer here.