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Bubbles 101 - Tips to Maximize Language During Play

August 24, 2020
By Kellie Munkres, M.S., CCC-SLP

Bubbles may appear like simple play, but when used with intention they can address a range of developmental skills such as attending, reaching, initiating, requesting, joint attention, and exclamatory vocalizations/words.

To promote social skills such as eye contact and joint attention, simply catch a bubble on the wand and bring the wand up to your eye level. This naturally lifts the child’s gaze up to your eyes and provides a simple reinforcement for the behavior. To increase interaction between you and your child during play, give the child a reason to look at you by moving in a silly way, using a variety of facial expressions, making funny sound effects, and using an animated tone of voice.

Children must understand the meaning of a word before they are able to verbally say the word. It is important to teach your child the meaning behind new words through verbal repetition and modeling. Traditionally, when playing with bubbles two words come to mind: “bubble” and “pop”. While these are key words to use when playing with bubbles, we can take this opportunity to incorporate a variety of action words, attributes, spatial concepts, and body parts/nouns throughout this simple play-based task.

Some examples of words to include:

Action words: clap, stomp, chop, kick, pat, smack, blow, pop, dance through the bubbles, run through the bubbles...

Spatial concepts: Bubble is… right here, over there, under the table, on top of the table...

Attributes: big/small, blow fast/slow...

Body parts: Bubble popped on… my foot, head, arm, toe, nose...

Nouns: Bubble popped on…Thomas the Train, table, floor, chair, dog, cat...

Before verbally imitating words, a child must be able to imitate actions. Using the aforementioned action words, encourage your child to copy the various gross motor movements. Don’t be afraid to be silly together! Karate-chop bubbles, Spiderman air punch bubbles, etc. Try your best to incorporate your child’s sensory needs and interests to maximize their attention span during play.

As your child begins to master these prerequisite skills, encourage them to make requests (i.e., more, open, blow, go, all done, etc.) throughout the task. As always, when teaching a new skill, model the desired request behavior (e.g., intended picture exchange communication (PECS), sign, or verbalization), implement expectant waiting (5-10 second pause), and provide gestures or verbal cues as necessary for assistance. 

Be sure to consult with your child’s Speech-Language Pathologist for more ideas to promote language understanding and use within the home environment.