Ah, the magic of bubble solution.
What therapist or parent hasn’t used this tool, over and over and over again? It’s a hit with recalcitrant toddlers, distractible preschoolers, even too cool early elementary aged students. The magical bubble solution is cheap and easy to carry. If you can overlook the periodic spill, it’s nearly perfect.
Bubbles also lend themselves easily to language development—i.e. requests/demands (depends on your perspective), joint attention, turn-taking, size concepts, etc. And it lends itself even more so to early articulation acquisition by offering a wealth of bilabials with early vowels—i.e. “pop”, “bubble”, “more”, “big”, “uh-oh”, “up”etc.
But after endless repetition you may fear that your head is the next thing to pop. Perhaps your kiddo still requires all the same vocabulary practice but you need to shake things up. Perhaps your new blouse doesn’t take well to glycerin spots. In any case, check out these ideas for a “same but different” experience:
1) Bubble Wrap: I adore bubble wrap. I save it from any packaging that arrives at my house, but you can also purchase it fairly cheaply. The teeny bubbles can be popped with fingers, fists, feet, elbows, bottoms, or a wooden mallet. Think how happy your OT will be! For a more motorically able child, consider twisting out the last few pops as well.
2) Air Bombs: Surely they have a name other than this, but it’s what they go by at my house. These are the more modern “bubble wrap on steroids” that arrive in lots of packages. Usually they have perforations to separate each bubble. These require a bit more heavy work–big stomps or jumps– but think of the possibilities for a child with sensory impairments. For safety’s sake, you might consider using some double stick adhesive to keep them in place. They can also be batted around like a balloon, lending themselves to “my turn” and “up”.
3) Pop Ice Cream: My son loved this thing when he was little—a soft foam ball on a string that fit onto a plastic cone. When you depress the button on the side, “POP”, it makes a thrilling shot into the air. (search Amazon for “Ice Cream Shooter”)
4) Poppers/Suction Cup Poppers: These are a tremendous value; usually found in the cheap bins at toy or party stores. The classic popper is simply a small plastic dome, about the diameter of a silver dollar. You turn it inside out, set it on a table or the floor and step back. The suction cup poppers usually have a cute character sitting atop a spring, attached to a suction cup. You press the character down firmly and, “pop”, up it shoots. The exciting element of either of these is that you don’t know exactly when they will detonate!
5) Fisher-Price Corn Popper: Remember this gem? How exciting it is to take turns pushing the corn popper around the room! And, it comes in a keychain size as well! More practical in some situations, you’ll still get the pop action just not all the movement.
6) Panic Pete Squeeze Toy: You’ve probably seen this odd sort of squishy stress relieving ball shaped like a little man. When you squeeze the body, “pop” his eyes, nose and ears protrude! Sure to elicit giggles.
7) Stomp Rocket: A huge hit with the preschool crowd and, again, great for those kids that might have additional SI issues. You set the rocket on the end of a plastic hose, and stomp down on a good sized plastic “balloon” to shoot it into the air. Remember, bottoms work as well as feet!
8) Playskool Busy Poppin’ Pals: These classic activity boxes require some fine motor dexterity to pull levers, push buttons or twist dials. With a little searching you can find variations in difficulty required. They also provide a gratifying opportunity to slam the little door back down and lends itself easily to “open”, “down”, “bye-bye”.
It’s easy to get stuck in a bit of a rut, especially if a child is still requesting the same activity over and over again. However, using a variety of related activities to achieve the same goal will aid greatly in carry-over, something I encourage families to work on from the very beginning. For instance, the word “pop” can also be used as a noun to refer to soda, a lollipop, a popsicle or even Grandpa!
Kim Swon Lewis, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, owns a pediatric private practice in Greensboro, NC. She is the author of Artic Attack and other R Games (published by Say It Right) and blogs creative ideas for speech-language treatment at www.activitytailor.com.
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This post originally appeared on our May/June 2012 Magazine