Picture of a child playing with a pink doll's house. The text reads "3 engaging activities for teaching early verbs in Speech Therapy"

3 Engaging Activities for Teaching Early Verbs

Children with language difficulties need specific support in developing their language skills. In this post you’ll learn about 3 engaging activities for teaching verbs in your early intervention Speech Therapy sessions.

Why is it important to teach verbs?

As therapists, we know that verbs are a crucial part of language development.  Children’s early vocabulary is very noun-heavy, but verbs help children communicate in increasingly complex ways.  Every sentence needs a verb, and verbs help children to begin using early phrases and sentences (typically around 2 years old).

An evidence-based approach for teaching verbs

One evidence-based approach you can use when working with late talkers and preschoolers with language delays/difficulties is the Focused Stimulation approach.
This approach is designed specifically for children who are at single-word level of language development, and is beneficial for children who have gaps in their vocabulary and language skills

Focused Stimulation (or Focused Language Stimulation) is an evidence-based therapy approach that involves using general language stimulation techniques (such as commenting, modeling, pausing, etc.), alongside frequent, highly concentrated repetitions of target vocabulary (which are selected prior to intervention). The adult creates opportunities to model these words multiple times across a variety of contexts (such as when reading a book, during play, at the store, etc.).   You can learn more about the Focused Stimulation approach by watching my presentation from the BIG EI Event 2021 (hosted on my Instagram page).

Check out these themed Early Language Units which give you a clear, evidence-based plan, with pre-planned activities and materials for building vocabulary for your little ones who have gaps in their vocabulary skills.

Engaging activities for teaching verbs in Speech Therapy sessions

1. Modelling action words through play.

We know children learn through play, so it is a great way to introduce and teach action words.

For this activity you want to gather a few toys that can be used to model a range of early verbs. Encourage the child to play with the toys and objects. Follow their lead in play and comment on what is happening. Model the target words multiple times in a natural way while commenting.
It’s important that you avoid directing or taking over this play, but you can model different play routines if the child isn’t using these. For example, you can make the teddy bear run, or put the teddy bear to bed and make it sleep, etc. Provide opportunities for the child to copy the new play routines too.

Suggested toys and verbs to target:

  • Playing with a doll’s house and people. (Verbs- open (doors/window), sit, sleep, fix (making person fix things in the house), walk, kick, hug, etc.).
  • Playing with a vehicle that has doors that open. (Verbs- open, sit (if people can fit inside), help, fix (pretend the car is broken)).
  • Playing with a teddy bear or doll, or people figurines. Act out various caring routines or daily routines. (e.g., making the teddy bear sleep, sit, walk, etc.).
  • Bubbles. (Verbs- open, help, kick, run or jump (to the bubble)).

For more ideas and materials for teaching verbs in your early intervention sessions, check out the Verb Themed Early Language Unit.

Text reads "a doll's house is a great way to taget verbs like 'open', 'sit', 'sleep', 'walk', etc. On the right is a picture of the 'Modelling Verbs in Play' Handout and in the background is a doll's house with toys and figurines.

2. Using interactive books to teach verbs.

Interactive books are a more structured way to introduce and teach verbs in therapy sessions. By their design, interactive books are repetitive and provide multiple opportunities for modelling the target words.

When using interactive books to teach verbs, you encourage the child to identify the verb and find the matching picture. You then model and repeat target words, and comment on what is happening in each picture.  You can extend this by using figurines or a doll to act out the action too, or by encouraging the child to act the action out after they have matched the interactive piece.

The Verb Themed Early Language Unit has 12 interactive books for targeting a range of early verbs, making it easy for you to target action words in a structured yet engaging way.

Text reads 'interactive books provide multiple opportunities for repetition'. On the right is a picture of 2 interactive books and the verb checklist from the Verb Themed Early Language Unit.

3. Use Interactive PowerPoints to teach verbs- perfect for Teletherapy!

Interactive PowerPoints are a fun and engaging way to target verbs, particularly during teletherapy sessions.  The Interactive PowerPoints included in the Verb Themed Early Language Unit are specially designed to provide multiple opportunities for repetition of the target vocabulary (as per best-practice guidance for the Focused Stimulation approach), while also being entertaining and engaging for young children

It is possible to use Interactive PowerPoint activities in both in-person and teletherapy sessions, as they work on both tablets (such as an iPad) and laptops/computers, as long as you have a PowerPoint program installed.
During teletherapy sessions, you can share your screen and the child can easily interact with the elements in each scene.  Every scene has a reset button too, so you can play them again and again, enabling plenty of opportunities for repetition of the target vocabulary.

Bonus activity for teaching verbs

Books are a great way to model vocabulary for children of all ages.  Check out my list of adorable books you can use to teach early verbs.