Using Blocks to Support Speech and Language Skills

As a kid I always loved playing with blocks and bricks.  I would build structures for hours and really enjoyed playing with my siblings and friends with them too.  Now as I’ve got older, the sets have become even more awesome and thanks to my amazing job, I get to use Duplo all the time! (Which is great because I’m a big kid at heart!!).  I use Duplo for a variety of reasons during my Speech and Language Therapy sessions, and I wanted to share just a few of them with you.

Please note- I have no affiliation with Lego/Duplo, and have created this post based on my own therapy experiences of using Duplo. I have not been requested or encouraged to produce this post in any way.  There are other blocks available that can be used in the same way as suggested below. 
1. Sorting objects by colour
These brightly coloured blocks are great to use for sorting tasks! I like to use the same sorting mats that I shared previously in this post, and get the kids to sort the blocks by colour.  If I haven’t got the mats with me, we sort them into piles, like in the picture above.
It’s a fun way to think about colours, especially when you’ve got sets that have blocks that are different shades of the same colour! We then link this to describing the blocks and making simple two-three word phrases, such as ‘blue block’ or ‘small, red block’.
2. Sorting objects by size/shape
Again, I use the sorting mats, or just get the kids to sort the blocks into separate groups based on the size or shape.  This is a fun activity, which not only links in concepts related to size and shape but gets them counting the “bobbly bits” (is there a special name for those parts?!) on the blocks too. I like to tie in other skills where possible in my sessions, to help children generalise their skills.

3. Requesting
Using Duplo blocks (or any other blocks) is a great way to work on requesting items with kiddos.  In my sessions, I give them a small number of blocks, then encourage them to build something. I have more blocks than they do, and I begin building my structure. They then have to request more blocks from me, while remembering to use their targets- this could be just using “more” to request, or it could be using a short phrase, and remembering to use their speech sounds, or descriptive words; whatever their targets may be!  This is a really motivating activity and it brings in other skills, such as sharing, joint attention, taking turns etc.

4. Following directions/Barrier games

I give the kids instructions of varying length (dependent on their ability/target) and get them to build a structure that matches what I tell them.  Likewise, I use these as a barrier game. One of us builds a structure then they have to describe it to the other person. This works on following instructions, maintaining attention and developing expressive language- all in one fun task! There’s also no preparation required with this task- which I love!
5. Reinforcers
I use a wide range of reinforcers or reinforcing activities during sessions- they can be anything, such as tokens, stickers, ‘do a dot’ pages- whatever works!! For kids that are highly motivated by these super-awesome, bright blocks, I give them a block every time they say a correct sound, get a correct answer, follow the instruction, make good eye contact,or take turns etc. Then, at the end, they get to build and play with the blocks that they have earned.  This works really well during group sessions because at the end I encourage them to all play and share together, which is a nice, rewarding activity too!
I also use the blocks to help gain repetitions when practising speech sounds- if they get a block with 4 “bobbly bits” on, then they say their sound/word 4 times, if it has six they say it six times etc. They then keep the block if they use their good sounds.
6. Alphabet/Number recognition
There are some sets which come with numbers and letters on them too. These are great for getting kids to learn their alphabet or to develop their counting/number recognition skills.
To link it in with their targets, I also get them to think of objects beginning with the letter the same that’s on their block (and work on categorising) or to think of words beginning with the same letter sound. It’s great for maths too; getting kids to learn number correspondence by counting out the same number of blocks as shown.
7. Play!
Quite simply, we sometimes just use these blocks to play with.  We pour the tub on the floor, and I let the kid’s imagination flow. I follow their lead, see what we’re building, and use this as an opportunity to develop their basic skills of joint attention, sharing, listening, single words or developing short phrases etc.  I love it when we build really tall towers, just because we can. Or we build houses for teddies to live in, or we pretend we are giants that are going to destroy a town… whatever they play, we play. It’s wonderful, it’s silly, it’s fun.. it’s brilliant! (and it’s why I love my job!)
These are just a few of the ways I’ve used Duplo in therapy sessions. There are some really awesome sets available, which have animals, people and other objects.  You can use these same strategies/ideas with any building blocks if you don’t have Duplo!
Do you use Duplo/Lego in your therapy sessions? How do you use them? Drop me a comment, I’d love to know!
Be sure to check out the website too, they have a Duplo section, which gives some ideas, games and downloads that can be used! There’s also a family section too, which has some really nice ideas- check it out here.
This post was updated on 18th March 2017.