20 Ways a Potato Head Can Help Sharpen Language Skills
As a Speech Pathologist, I am always looking for toys to utilize in therapy that will target a variety of speech and language skills. Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head are the perfect addition to every child’s toy box for this reason. This toy is a “must have” to reinforce speech, language, and social skills for children in preschool through third grade. Below are some fun and easy targets to incorporate into play!
1. Turn taking
Mr. Potato Head is a great toy to utilize during group activities. Allowing each child to take a turn adding a piece teaches the child how to wait for their turn, request items or assistance from peers appropriately, collaborative play, and following other’s plan or directions.
Mr. Potato Head is a great way to target new vocabulary. Clothing items and body parts are great vocabulary targets to utilize during play.
3. Identifying body parts
In addition to adding new vocabulary, the body parts included are a great way to practice identification on the Potato head and the child. For example, “Point to Mrs. Potato Head’s eyes. Great! Now where are your eyes?”
4. Body part functions
Once body parts are identified and named, discussing their functions is a great way to target object function. For example “what do we use to smell?” or “what do our ears do?”
Identifying and labeling colors is a great way to practice and incorporate adjectives into speech. After the child labels a body part or clothing item, encourage them to label the color of the item to enforce more descriptive language.
6. Size concept
In addition to colors, labeling and identifying size is a great way to expand object descriptions. For example, ask the child to select the “big nose” or encourage the child to add a big/little description to labeling activities.
Working on verbal and visual requests is super easy with the Mr. Potato Head set. Simply withhold the desired items and add ons to allow your child to make a request verbally or with gestures.
8. Wh- questions
Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head sets are loaded with potential wh- questions. During play asking simple who, what, where and when questions pertaining to the activity to help your child understand what the question is asking for and practice formulating an appropriate response.
9. Speech sounds
Just about every toy can be used to target speech sound errors and the Mr. Potato Head set is no exception. If a clothing item, body part, or toy has the child’s target speech sound in the beginning, middle, or end of the word it is great to highlight the sound by modeling a correct production for the child and allowing them to practice.
10. Following directions
Following simple to multi step directions is easy with Mr. and Mrs. Potato. Ask your child to add or take off body parts and clothing items or place the potato head in a certain location. For example, “Before you put Mr. Potato Head’s ears on, put his eyes on.”
11. Giving directions
In addition to following directions, your child can also practice giving you simple and multi-step directions as well. By giving a child a model direction, your child can practice verbally sequencing steps for you to complete.
12. Basic location concepts
Basic concepts like on, off, under, over, top, bottom, etc. are easily targeted using this set. For example asking your child where a certain piece is located (on top) or giving the child directions to follow containing concept vocabulary (put the shoes on under the potato) is simple during play activities.
13. Compare and contrast
Comparing and contrasting body parts, clothing items, and potato head sets can be easily done with Mr. Potato Head. Separating items into categories and identifying how the items are alike and different are a great way to target language skills.
All of the fun potato set pieces can be put into many different categories (body parts, clothes, color categories, shape categories, etc.). Selecting a category and allowing your child to select items that fit that category are a great way to increase vocabulary connections.
Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head are a great way to target pronouns during play. Incorporating he, she, him, her, into play will help the child learn how to use the appropriate pronoun for each gender. Example, “Who is holding the purse? She is holding it.”
16. Making a choice
Practicing choice making skills is a great language skill to use during play. Giving the child an option of two or three different types of eyes, noses, etc. will allow them to use verbal and non-verbal language to choose.
Targeting verbs using the Potato Head set is fun and easy for children. You can make Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head sit, walk, run, jump, etc. and allow the child to identify and name each verb.
18. Social greetings/farewell models
Using Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head to model appropriate hellos and goodbyes are a great way to practice social skills with children. In addition, modeling conversation goals like topic maintenance and staying on topic are new and fun ways for children to practice.
The silly eyes and mouths included in Potato Head sets are a great way to practice identifying and matching emotions to facial expressions. Modeling happy, sad, silly, etc. and allowing your child to identify the emotion and copy it.
20. Rhyming words
The body parts and clothing items are great ways to practice creating rhyming words. For example, “what part rhymes with bat?”