Pop up Pirate

Ever wondered why every Speech Pathologist you have ever met has Pop up Pirate in the cupboard?

This little guy has a tough life getting nudged with swords of every colour on most days of the week until he finally pops out of the barrel!

Whilst it might just look like a fun, cheap toy, let me assure you that this this pirate is also a terrific therapy tool that is well worth adding to your toolbox if you are a parent or educator working with a child who has speech, language or communication difficulties.

Speech Sounds

Get your picture cards or real items ready.

Have your child either imitate the word after you with assistance or spontaneously say the word that includes your child’s target sound.

Encourage your child to say a word  –> before then selecting  a sword or (to get even more speech practice) encourage your child to say the word 5 times accurately before you give him/her a sword to stick into the Pirate.

Is your child working on ‘s-clusters’ ?  If so, Pop up Pirate is the perfect therapy tool and you don’t even need picture cards as your child can say ‘stick in’ each time a sword is stuck into the barrel.

The same is true if your child is working on the ‘s’ sound.  He / She can say ‘sword’ or ‘green /red / blue sword’ each time they have a turn.

If your child needs help with the /k/ sound, try incorporating a request into the activity e.g. “CAN I have a blue sword?”

The possibilities are pretty much endless when it comes to speech sounds and the use of Pop up Pirate.

For some children, the game can be played simply as a reward for completing a less preferred or more challenging activity.

Language Goals and Pop up Pirate

Pop up Pirate is not only helpful for making speech home practice fun. He can be used to help target a multitude of other goals including:

Taking turns with a play partner

Understanding the concepts of first –> next

Responding to questions such as “How many?” and “Where?”

Learning concepts of colour, number, sequence and location

Asking questions

Answering questions

Making predictions

Developing joint attention

There are so many ways to use Pop up Pirate to build communication skills.  Home practice can be fun!

So, keep your eye out for this fun toy and plenty of others like it which have so many uses and never fail to find a little one’s smile.

If you are wanting more tips on getting the most out of home / preschool / school practice, then please take a dive into the last couple of Chatterbox blogposts https://learn2communicate.com.au/i-dont-want-to-when-children-wont-do-their-speech-home-programmes/ and https://learn2communicate.com.au/struggling-to-fit-a-speech-home-programme-into-your-life/ and have some fun!


Late Talkers

My Toddler is Not Talking Yet.

Should I be concerned?  What can I do to help?

These are comments and questions that we hear quite frequently when concerned parents contact us at Learn2Communicate.  So many parents have, what they describe as, a niggling doubt about their child’s speech and language development.  At first, they may rely upon the well-meaning advice of loved ones.  Being told ‘Don’t worry.  He will grow out of it’ or  ‘Your father didn’t speak until he was 4’ can temporarily put those worries aside but, unless that little toddler starts to talk soon after, such comments rarely help to allay a parent’s worry.  Before long someone will surely say something  along the lines of ‘I think he should be talking by now’ or ‘Your child should have 50 words by this age’.  Although such comments often tip a parent into action; these types of comments can also fuel a parent’s concern and do little by way of assisting the parent in knowing what to do next and when to do it.

For those of you reading this post and think ‘Ahhh…I do have concerns about my child’s language development’, then please read on as we have some simple tips to get you started and to help you feel  empowered with the knowledge, skills and capacity to nurture your child’s communication development.  There is much that you can do to help young children learn how to communicate. All children can become effective communicators…even those who have a significant degree of disability and other co-morbid conditions.  Okay, read on for some great tips to get started!

The ‘WHY’ of Communication

Sit back and observe your child for a few days.  Take note of the reasons WHY your child communicates.  Take your focus off which speech sounds your child can or cannot say for now.  Just ask yourself WHY does my child communicate / for what communicative purposes?

Some reasons why you child might communicate include to express:

  • Greetings / Farewells
  • Request for items, food, drink and actions e.g. to be lifted out of the highchair, to go outside
  • Comments about what he or she is interested in or is noticing
  • Responses to your simple questions and to your requests to follow simple directions
  • Enjoyment, excitement, frustration, protest and rejection

The HOW of Communication

Some of the many ways in which your child might communicate these intents might include:

  • Facial expressions
  • Tone of voice
  • Gestures including pointing
  • Speech ‘jargon’ that is unintelligible but that has the intonation of language
  • Single words
  • Short phrases

Identify any gaps in the WHYs of communication

Communication is a complex dance between people that goes back and forth in a reciprocal relationship.  Communication involves far more than identifying body parts or imitating words after an adult requests a child to ‘say…’.  Look for the gaps in your child’s communicative intent.

Perhaps your child can wave hello and bye bye but may not yet be communicating for the purpose […]

Talking Time with your Child…Make it an Atomic Habit

I have recently been reflecting upon how our daily habits all contribute to our long term health and wellbeing after reading the bestselling book ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear.  For those of you who attended our face to face Learn2Communicate events throughout the Central West of NSW earlier in 2022, you would already know this.  I haven’t stopped thinking about the idea of applying this concept to my work as a Speech Pathologist.  How can we make small and easy changes to our daily routines and interactions with children in a way that will have a powerful impact?

We know that children respond well to frequent, positive interactions with a loving caregiver and that child acquisition of oral language skills can be boosted in the early years via such interactions. As a Speech Pathologist and also as a Parent, I also know that providing families of children who have speech, language and communication challenges with comprehensive, detailed ‘home programmes’ in order to provide this boost to oral language can be ineffective.  Add to this the request by the Speech Pathologist to “complete this home programme with your child at least 3-4 times per week and try to spend 15-30 minutes during each practice time” and we see many parents opting to run for the hills!

What if we could, instead, infuse some new powerful habits into everyday routines and that these habits were easy yet effective in helping all children become effective communicators?

How can we make Talking Time with Children a new Atomic Habit that each and every one of us can adopt?

Here are some ideas I would encourage all of you to consider!

Start by identifying what the exisiting routines are during your day that involve you and your child.

Write these down.  A routine doesn’t have to have many steps; it is simply just something that happens on several days each week with some degree of predictability.  Some examples I can think of with a toddler in mind might be: getting into the car seat, packing a bag for daycare, bath time, story time at night, getting dressed, breakfast, snack, lunch and dinner time, parent returning home from work time, bed time.  Perhaps keep a blank piece of paper on the fridge for a week and note every small little routine that you can think of as it occurs.

Now…choose one of those routines and write down the ‘script’ for what happens. Here is an example for a fictional child. Let’s call him Dylan:

Snack Time after Preschool

Mum opens front door.

Mum and Dylan walk inside.

Mum takes Dylan’s backpack and unpacks drink bottle, lunch box and hat.

Mum puts each of these items away.

Mum takes Dylan’s shoes off.

Mum opens fridge and makes Dylan a snack of carrot sticks and hummus.

Mum lifts Dylan to sit at kitchen bench and places snack in front of him.

Mum says “time for afternoon tea”

Dylan eats snack whilst mum […]



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