How Many Ways Can I Use This Toy? 3 More Tips for Building Language Through Play

Fishing games are used a lot in speech-language therapy.  Many SLPs I know use a version of this game for practicing articulation sounds with their students. Kids seem to enjoy the challenge of getting a fish to stick to their magnetic pole.

toys in speech therapy

Since I don’t do articulation therapy (and have pretty much never done it) I’ve used a game like this for building language skills in a couple of different ways.

First, simply use the game as is, and have students provide description of the sea creature they catch.  If giving descriptions is too difficult, you can use it for building receptive language by having them “Catch the pink seahorse,” or “Catch the orange fish with yellow polka dots.”

Second, practice comparing and contrasting.  Have the student catch two sea creatures, or you catch one and the student catches another.  If you’ve got more than 1 student, work in pairs.  Students compare and contrast the sea animals caught.  
“Both of the animals are fish, and both are orange.  But my fish has yellow polka dots, and your fish has blue fins and tail.”  

Use the Venn diagram below to lay the animals out so students can see the similarities and difference.  Laminate the sheet and use wipe-off markers for repeated use.
I’ve also included some descriptive images to use.

Third, work on narrative skills.  Create an ocean scene on your computer, or tear one out of a calendar or travel magazine.  This will set the “Where” of the story.  The sea creatures caught by the student are the characters, telling the “Who” of the story.  The student creates the action, moving the fish around the picture and telling the action, or “What doing” of the story.
Use the story map below the provide visual cues for what elements are needed.

While the catalogue says this game is for children under 3 and babies, I’ve used it with elementary school-aged students with these higher level language targets and we’ve had tons of fun while building crucial language skills.

For younger students, or those with more language difficulties, you might start just by having them label the animal, then gradually add colors and other descriptors; from “crab” to “orange crab.”

If you’re looking for further resources to practice these skills, try my Describe it to Me, Describe-Compare-Contrast, Describing Things Book, and Describing Snow Globes resources.  


  1. This is great thinking outside the box. Thanks so much for sharing this awesome info.