Themes and play based therapy go together SO well! They are not mutually exclusive!
There are so many misconceptions about play based therapy and one of them is that you can't use themes! This is the furthest from the truth. Using themes AND playing makes therapy SO MEANINGFUL! Themed instruction provides context for children to understand new content and play allows a meaningful and motivating way of presenting information. It's like a match made in heaven!
School-based SLPs, Preschool SLPs, and Early Intervention SLPs can all use speech therapy themes! You can target expressive language, vocabulary, following directions, sequencing, spatial concepts, WH-Questions and more - all within a theme! Using themes is a great way to minimize your planning time, streamline your therapy, and make meaningful connections for your students.
Here are my top seven tips and reminders for using themes in your play ba speech therapy sessions.
1. To be TRUE Theme Based Therapy, the vocabulary, questions, concepts, and targets should be related to the theme. Cute clipart doesn’t make it a thematic resource (that’s why I created these Theme Related WH-Question Cards - available as BOOM and PDF).) By presenting the same information, in different related activities, we are really helping the child learn new information and skills.
2. Use a mix of year round and seasonal themes. Year round themes allow you to use them whenever you want (even more than once a year). For a list of my favorite themes and resources, make sure to grab your freebie from my Freebie library! This also allows you to have a core set of toys and resources that you can use anytime and get the most bang for your buck! (Personally I prefer fewer themes with more resources within the theme so I can easily switch between age groups, if needed).
3. Don’t overthink it! Use a few simple resources. A book, a game, a song, and a toy are all you need for a play based themed therapy session.
4. Get organized! An organization system that works for you is key to continued success using themes. I store all of my ‘hands-on’ resources (toys, games, books) in totes, sorted by theme, and my printed resources are stored by theme in 1 1/2 inch binders, divided by goal area.
5. Repeat the speech and language targets between activities to encourage learning and retention. It’s okay (even preferred!) to work on the same targets during the book, game, and during play!
6. Using theme related articulation word lists can help you incorporate articulation into play activities! Looking for some themed word lists? Check these out!
7. Use a theme and play activities for a loooong time. You don’t need 52 themes. Personally, I use ten themes a year and I use each theme for 2-5 weeks. I even repeat the exact same activities a few times! Why? Because the more exposure a child can get with the vocabulary, concepts, and information presented within a theme - the better they will learn and retain that information!
Have a set of visuals you can use with ANY play activity. I use these speech sound cue card and language visuals all year, in every single session!
If you are interested in starting to used themes in speech therapy, but don’t know where to start, make sure to check out this blog.