Here I go, entering the world of private practice — and blogging. A daunting, but exciting new chapter in my 20 year career. In trying to think of what I might talk about, the thing that came to mind are the questions I so often get from parents. The questions I often don’t have time enough to answer — because they are leaving the clinic or I see the child at daycare. So much to talk about, so little time.

One common question these past few years is: “What are good iPad/tablet apps to help with language development in toddlers and preschoolers?” My honest answer to that is that there are good children’s apps, just as there are good books. But with any book or app, if they are going to really promote language development, they are meant to be looked at together and talked about together.

Language development happens in interaction with other people. Videos and apps are entertaining and they certainly will learn and remember some things. But little humans don’t learn as well from these 2 dimensional interactions. They learn from seeing, doing, hearing, touching, tasting, getting feedback, asking questions, seeing cause/effect and having a good time with other humans.

That being said, apps are great for me because instead of carrying 10 books in my therapy bag, I can carry lots in my iPad. Here are 3 that I often use and the ways I use them to encourage speech and language.



Peekaboo Barn

This app costs $1.99 and, for the last few years, every one of my clients has loved it. You can focus on so many things: learning the names of all the animals, listening (auditory discrimination) to the sound they make and guessing “Who is that?”, being exposed to the simple words and letters of the name, cause and effect of touching the barn door to open it, and talking about the animals as we move along – the chicken has eggs, the pig is pink, the dog seems to look sad.

With speech, some children are working on 2 syllable words, so having them say “open” is easy one to work on. At Christmas they add some extra fun, and they have other versions, too. I also have the Elmo and Fridge. Love this app.

Purchase it in the Apple iTunes or Google Play stores.



Nighty Night! — The Bedtime Book App

This app costs $3.99 and is one of my personal favorites. I love the graphics and the narrator’s voice. With this app I also focus on “Wh? Questions,” such as “where is the dog?” or “where is the light switch?”, “what did the rabbit do?” We can talk about the prepositions “on” and “off”.

Lots of vocabulary to talk about in this app. And, if the child is working on the /f/ sound, I ask for him/her to repeat the word “off” as they shut off the light. Be prepared, the goat has a fun surprise.

And, at Christmas they also add some extra fun. As I was preparing this post I saw that the developers, Fox & Sheep, have a lot of good apps. Check it out.

Purchase it in the Apple iTunes or Google Play stores.



Toca Boca

Lastly, kids love the Toca Boca. And it’s free. I only have Toca Kitchen Monsters at the moment, but it makes even me laugh when we use it.

This is an easy one for kids to just sit by themselves and play with, but there’s no language. However, if an adult and child are sitting together, you can add lots of fun language.

In therapy, kids know I always have control of the iPad so it IS a little easier for me than for parents to be the leader. But it’s still worth a try. What I do is encourage verbal (or even AAC) choice making. The child must tell me which monster he wants — “red or blue?”, then “what should the monster eat?”. Now, “How are we going to cook it?

With some kids, we might be working on the /k/ sound, so they have to say “cut” before we cut the food with the knife. I love making the monster eat a cooked lemon with lots of salt. Blaaah!

Download it for free in the Apple iTunes store.


Disclaimer:  I have no financial ties to any of these developers. I just like their apps. Hope that gives you some ideas! I’ll post more in the future.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Heidi Dawes, M.A., CCC-SLP