Increasingly in the settings that I work with, there are more children who are showing some signs of speech delay. This can be for a number of reasons and we should always seek professional advice if we have any concerns.
There are some activities that you can do with all children, that are not only fun, but give them the opportunity to explore a range of skills and experiences that also link to the physical development that can support successful speaking.
With this in mind I popped into my local packaway pre school – The Ark – (find them on Facebook here), where Sally, Nigel and Janice kindly gave up one of their Tuff Trays.
The activity that I wanted to set up had a primary link to sucking and blowing.
Whilst there is no direct link between sucking and blowing and sounds for speech, we need to be able to control our breath as we inhale and exhale to make sure that we have enough to use to make the sounds we need to speak.
When I was reading about this I found out that blowing can also increase the strength of your tongue and that can help with making sounds at the back of your mouth like K and G. It also helps children to be able to achieve a better, rounder lip shape for sounds like W, ‘oo’ and ‘oh’.
So, what was in the Tuff Tray?
I started with:
20 ping pong balls
10 larger plastic balls
LOTS of paper straws
Wooden tissue box cover
3 metal egg cups
Other tubes of various sizes were already available in the provision.
The wooden tissue box cover is from Ebay. I have got 3 of these and have had them for ages. They have a slide off bottom so are really good for filling and emptying. Also great for Small World play – as well as a million other things. You can find an example here.
Although sucking and blowing were part of the experience that I wanted the children to have, I knew that lots of ping pong balls in a Tuff Spot would open up huge possibilities for interpretation. My aim was to introduce some resources and a concept and then let it run its course.
This is where is went…
We stared with some big blowing, just to see if we could move the balls around in the Tuff Spot. The children found that harder than they expected. It was great to see them actively trying to find solutions to their issues by moving around the tray and trying to blow from different heights. If all else fails, you can always flick a ball with your finger!
I had left some straws around the edges of the Tuff Spot and the children eventually began to use them to help with the blowing. Once one had discovered them, then they became very popular!
This young man spent a LONG time trying to pick up a ping pong ball by sucking and drop it into the box.
He showed huge amounts of resilience and experimented with lots of different combinations of straw, breath, distance from the box. To everyones great delight – he did it!
The first addition to the play from the children came in the form of wooden blocks. These were brought to the Tuff Spot specifically to create a ‘bridge’ to blow a ball through.
Nice bit of bridging! But what do you do when your bridge is too narrow?
You rebuild it of course!
Then you keep adjusting until you get success!
Once you have got the hang of it, there is no stopping you…double bridges…
Bigger bridges for bigger balls… Double straws ‘to help you to blow harder’…
The learning just keeps on coming!
One of the great things about this type of provision is that you are never playing or learning alone.
Having the opportunity to observe and share in a play experience is invaluable for learning and inspiration.
Not a single word passed between these two but their interaction was powerful!
As the session went on, the play morphed even further.
Some children were more interested in the transporting and filling and emptying possibilities that were on offer.
Posting balls (and egg cups)into tubes was also a hit!
Not to mention a bit of Mathematics and Small World play. Our ping pong balls are now eggs – of course!
It is just as well I brought lots of ping pong balls!
Then the sharks came!
Here you see two sharks who like a boiled egg in an egg cup!
This is one of my favourite moments of the session…
‘The white ones are eggs, the blue ones are sea eggs and the yellow ones are Katy Moreggs!”
One of the joys of Early Years education is that there is always so much potential for learning, even in the simplest of resources.
The important thing to remember is engagement is key to involvement and learning. We have to be flexible enough to allow children to interpret the environments that we create for them and go with their learning, even if it wasn’t what we intended or expected.
Right, I am off to see if I can track down some Katy Moreggs for lunch!
Simple but effective. Another one for my ‘must try’ pile. 🙂 Thanks Alistair
Thank you Alistair, Nuffield is a reliable and respected source. I will have a read and drop you an email, Sue
Please could you let me know where you found this information: “When I was reading about this I found out that blowing can also increase the strength of your tongue and that can help with making sounds at the back of your mouth like K and G. It also helps children to be able to achieve a better, rounder lip shape for sounds like W, ‘oo’ and ‘oh’.”
I am not sure how true it is and would not like people reading the article to be misled; I would like to explore the validity of the information. Thank you, Sue
Hi Sue – Thanks for getting in touch. I did lots of reading around blowing and breath control in children and how that can support development.
My primary source of information was an article by Pam Williams (Dip. CST; M Sc; MRCSLT) who is Principal Speech and Language Therapist, Nuffield Hearing and Speech Centre.
Here are some of the sections from her article that I was referring to:
1.The Lips are important for control of dribbling, swallowing and blowing as well as speech sound production. During speech, some sounds, such as ‘sh’, ‘w’ and ‘oo’ need the lips to move forwards, other sounds such as ‘ee’ and ‘m’ need the lips spread.
Aims of exercise: to improve lip shapes and movements so that speech sounds can be made more easily….
Blowing and sucking – through different pipes, tubes, straws etc.,
Helps lips make a rounded shape. Encourage him/her to hold with their lips alone, not with his teeth as well.
Blowing activities encourage vigorous movements of the soft palate and will help develop muscle strength. If your child finds this very difficult and air comes down his nose, you can help by gently placing your thumb and forefinger under his/her nostrils – this will help close off the air stream and give him the feeling of air coming through his mouth and is more pleasant for the child than if you pinch his/her nostrils.
Blowing bubbles – a wand is difficult so use a simple blower (a variety are available in toy shops)
Blow painting through straws can be fun, if messy!
Blowing pipes, recorders, harmonicas, etc., is enjoyable and rewarding.
Blowing games are often enjoyed and will motivate him to try again – various blowing games can be found in toyshops as well as blow football (you can improvise with straws and cotton wool, paper or a table tennis ball).
This led me to lots of other articles that were saying similar things. I am happy for any more info that you might have for me on the subject.
My email address is email@example.com
What a fantastic activity that builds upon itself and the children’s interests- can take you anywhere. Must try this
*sobs at how wonderful our children are*
We loved you visiting our little setting and are ‘chomping at the bit’ to build on the interest you created with your “Katy Moreggs” 😉