There’s no substitute for real world connection, real life experiences or a child’s play in the real world. The time you spend during bath time, your special pancake routine, walks and field trips are the best activities for your child. Additionally, any time you share with your child in play is jam-packed with relationship building, while supporting language and development at the same time.

However, during telepractice or in-centre, we are limited by certain constraints. When we are in telepractice, we are limited by the physical screen and are not able to be there to join in and connect through presence. When we are in-centre, the 4 walls can be very limiting and with increased infection-prevention measures, many of our old toys and materials can no longer be used. Regardless of telepractice or in-centre, we need ways that we can relate to a child’s interests and connect through play. As clinicians, we need some tools that will help us evaluate and target communication goals that a child has. It can be challenging in telepractice, and it is important that a parent remains with younger children to support as well as learn strategies for at-home. With a few digital tools, paper prinouts and play-based approaches, children can be motivated and engaged. We have to bring the fun!

What are my top goals for a speech-language pathologist to consider when working with a family?

Ingredients for an effective partnership with children and their families:

  1. Build rapport with the child and family

  2. Understand a child’s needs as well as their interests

  3. Coach the parent (all settings)

  4. Play-based approach to therapy (different settings)

    • At Home – A clinician that will visit you at home will provide parent coaching and consider the set-up, activities and resources that you have. At-home clinicians can more easily discuss ways that you can incorporate a child’s goals into the materials you already have. I prefer coaching parents to play with their toys in their home, but this can be difficult with certain children or populations.
    • In-Centre – An in-centre clinician will provide parent coaching and also use available activities (e.g. toys, paper print-outs, tablets) that support and motivate a child. We have a limited amount of time in-centre and these tools are meant to make the most of the time. Currently, with stricter cleaning measures due to Covid, we have had to edit our toys and pare down our in-centre toys greatly. This has been a challenge, and it is most important to discuss and coach a family on the activities that they will continue at home, during which activity, and how.
    • Telepractice – A virtual telepractice clinician will provide parent coaching. This clinician will also use the available activities they have, both in real form or digital format. When it comes to real objects, we like to use books or toys that partner well with our goals or motivate a child. With digital toys in telepractice, we still remind parents that real world experience and real life toys are optimal. We use telepractice tools very carefully, and ALWAYS paired with interaction. They can be really fun and motivating for a child, but we always recommend the parent or clinician brings the enthusiasm, fun, and sound effects!
  5. Interaction

    • Interaction is the key underlying factor in all aspects of a child’s development and also our parent-clinician coaching relationship. We help coach parents to enhance and change their daily interactions in ways that better support speech and language development. We listen to a child and family so that we can find ways to improve clinical interaction and relationship.
  6. Reflection

    • After sessions, clinicians reflect on a child’s progress, successful activities, and what we can continue or add in our next sessions. We have also given parents at-home practice, that we will ask them to report-back on the next time we meet. We want to hear about about both your successes and challenges — this is all part of reflective practice.

I make it clear to my families that it is the communication partner that should shine (e.g., Mom! Dad!). Any additional tools or toys that we bring are meant to support and not replace our role. The communication doesn’t come from just having the materials, we must talk and interact during the activity to communicate and develop  communication.

For parents > Please talk to your clinicians about the best way to support your child’s language.

For clinicians > Continue providing parent coaching, and check out some new digital toys that aim to replicate the real-world experience of planes, trains or cars. Think of using these activities to help with early requesters (GO, STOP), or as a reinforcer for older children who already have interaction but need motivators for any speech or language goal.

I also make cause and effect toys.

And, special interests from puppies, to unicorns, construction vehicles and superheroes!


Animated telepractice toys with “go”, “slow/fast” and “stop” buttons. I use these like I used to use my wind-up toys and wooden car tracks.

Monster Dance! is a repetitive book where different monsters stop/go and dance, and later single and groups of monsters dance!

playTOK Monsters Dance game

playTOK Monsters Dance

I also have many hide-and-seek themed games, which kids love! Check out the following games!

  • Garage Doors – cars in garages
  • Monster House
  • Don’t Pop Pete! “Hide the Parrot”
  • Don’t Pop Frankenpete! “Boo in a Barrel”
  • Don’t Pop Penny!
  • My Puppy- dog hides behind bushes
  • “Unicorns!” Hide unicorns and gems in castles

Don’t Pop Frankenpete! is also great for hiding “Boo in a Barrel”

pirate popping out of barrel

playTOK version of Pop Up Pirate\


playtok Don't Pop Frankenpete!

playtok Don’t Pop Frankenpete!

So, in conclusion, telepractice toys are a solution around limitations we have right now during heighted infection-prevention periods.

Find these and more all in my playTOK Boom Learning Store