Winter Activity Idea: Balloon Rockets


What you’ll need:

  • 1 balloon
  • 1 straw
  • Yarn (between six and ten feet)
  • Tape


  1. Tie one end of the string on the back of a chair or similar item.
  2. Thread straw onto the string, and attach the loose end of the string to another chair.
  3. Inflate the balloon, but don’t tie it!
  4. Tape untied balloon to straw and get ready to for action!

This activity is great for practicing phrases like “ready, set, go!”, “go balloon”, or “more air!”. It is also great for naming objects in your home like “tie the string to the chair”, or “tape the string to the table”. For added fun you can set up two rockets and have them race!

When you are done, kicking around tied balloons or hitting them into the air can provide hours of entertainment. This creates the perfect opportunity to practice action words and get all the winter wiggles out!

Caution: always supervise play with balloons, as they can be a choking hazard for children three and under.

Jessie Delos Reyes, MA, CF-SLP

Image and idea source:


How Toys Improve Your Child’s Development

Parents often comment, “It looks like my child just plays with toys during the developmental therapy session.” How can toys improve a child’s development? Do parents need to buy the same toys in order for their child to progress?

What is developmental therapy?

Developmental therapy focuses on a child’s global development. Global development includes regulatory and sensory processing, cognition, language comprehension, language expression, gross and fine motor, social-emotional, and self-help skill development. A therapist will identify specific areas of strengths and concerns to develop a play activity program that addresses the child’s needs.

How are toys used to address areas of development?

Toys used during developmental therapy sessions are strategically chosen in order to help children overcome their challenges and gain confidence in their own ability to acquire functional, age-appropriate, developmental skills. Each session will focus on a number of specific goals, which are assessed through the child’s play with a toy. For example, a book may be used for younger children to help them focus on the details of each page, by encouraging them to run their fingers over the pages and follow the therapist’s pointing at objects. For an older child, a book may be used for object recognition, sound attribution, and concept of size. Nesting cups are another popular toy choice for expanding a child’s development. Younger children learn imitation skills by watching the therapist bang two cups together, and eventually producing the same action. Older children will learn trial and error while nesting the entirety of cups independently, and turning them over to stack them.

Do families need to buy the same toys to see progress in development?

No, families do not need to go out and spend money on the same toys used by the therapist. Many of the skills tested during the sessions can be easily produced with simple objects already found in the home. Instead of buying books, families can work on their child’s identification skills by naming foods in their house (milk, apple) and pointing to objects outside (flower, tree). An easy substitute to the nesting cups that would test a child’s construction skills would be different-sized bowls in the home for nesting, and toilet paper rolls for stacking. While the therapists do use a bag of specific toys, our approach to developmental therapy encourages skill development at home through available resources, and embedding learning activities into a family’s daily routine.

Brittany Hill, MS, MSW, LSW, DT


Is there a difference between speech and language?

While speech and language delays or disorders can exist together, there is a distinct difference between the two. Language is communication that can be understood, spoken, written, read, and gestures (such as sign language). There are two areas of language including receptive language, defined as what we hear and understand, and expressive language, defined as the words we use to communicate wants and needs to others. Speech is the ability to clearly and verbally communicate messages to others. Speech includes: articulation, defined as how sounds are made (e.g. the ability to produce /r/ or /s/ correctly), voice, defined as how the vocal folds and breathing combine to produce sound (e.g. healthy voice versus hoarse or “lost” voice), and fluency, defined as the rate and rhythm of the flow of speech (e.g. smooth versus stuttering).

When a child has difficulty with comprehension or understanding others, it is defined as a receptive language delay. When a child has difficulty expressing wants, needs, and other general ideas and thoughts, it is defined as an expressive language delay. When both are present, it is defined as an overall language delay.

When a child has difficulty producing speech sounds correctly or fluently, or has voice problems, it is defined as a speech delay or disorder.

It is significant to note that there is also a difference between a delay and a disorder. A speech or language delay describes a child whose skills are developing along the same developmental path as typically developing children, just at a slower rate and they may require more time, more practice, and more repetition.

Speech and language disorders describe children whose speech and language is developing abnormally and not following the usual pattern or sequence of typical language development.

The best way to find out if your child’s development requires attention is to seek a comprehensive evaluation by a speech-language pathologist (SLP). Pediatric speech therapy is available through the Illinois Early Intervention program and can greatly improve or remediate your one- to- three-year-old child’s speech and language problems. Children over three can receive outpatient pediatric speech therapy at a pediatric therapy clinic as well. A children’s speech therapist can be a great resource for your questions and concerns, as well as ongoing speech therapy.

Therese Schmidt, MS, CF-SLP