9 Great Tips for Adapting Materials You Already Own!
Therapy doesn’t always have to be expensive, if you use materials you already have around the house creatively! It also helps if you have garage sales in your neighborhood or if you know people that have kids. Don’t be afraid to ask them to let you go through their kids’ toys and books before they get rid of them! Here are 9 great tips for adapting materials you already own!
Adapting items you have takes a little time, but building up a supply of activities around a theme makes working with mixed-level groups much easier! Being able to mix and match the materials for different groups’ needs also keeps you from having to do the exact same activity all day long.
These examples have a pet theme, so fun to do at any time of the year.
Tip 1: ORGANIZE AND KEEP COLLECTING!
Buy some inexpensive boxes to keep the toys and books you’ve found for each theme all in one place. Add to the theme as you find more inexpensive items.
If you have students with low-level skills or minimal language, puzzles that have separate pieces of whole items are worth spending some money on.
- Request the pet they want to place. (labeling)
- Find the pet that makes the sound. (auditory skills)
- Find the pet who swims, flies, etc. (action vocabulary)
- Find the pet who eats carrots, wears a collar, etc. (word association skills)
- Request a black pet, a flying pet, etc. (describing)
Find varied books on that theme with different levels and great pictures. This will let you build literacy skills while choosing the book that is easiest to elicit the specific language each group is working on.
Tip 4: ADAPT
Taping symbols over the book text to adapt it to be a simple repetitive book is simple to do. Just adapt the size of the symbols so that the original text is covered and use a wide roll of clear tape that extends past the paper to hold it firmly in place. The book in the photo is still in good shape after 20+ years. Don’t use school tape, though, as it will yellow and peel.
The book in the photo has repetitive text for what the pets eat. Use craft glue to put small pieces of the foods in the bottom of empty, clean plastic fruit cups. It dried clear, keeping the pieces from falling out and kids from trying to eat them.
After each page, students put the toy animal in the matching food cup to ‘feed’ them. It makes reading fun and brings the language to life!
Tip 6: MIX & MATCH
Having many items in the same theme to mix and match is so useful!
- Therapy stays interesting.
- There’s lots of opportunities to label and use or expand language skills.
- Combining items in different ways aids generalization.
- Building skills with different play combinations helps students to develop symbolic play.
Tip 7: SAVE YOUR SHOEBOXES
(Honestly, I am not a shoe shopaholic but little kids grow into new sizes quickly!)
Admittedly, it can be a pain to cut through shoeboxes, but they offer such inexpensive ways to incorporate hands-on fun with lots of language!
After warming up by labeling the pets with the puzzle, you can have some pretend play!
“The animals are inside, but they are hungry. Let’s take them out.”
“Who wants to eat first?”
“I think I hear “meow.” What is it?
Let’s open the door!”
You can emphasize concepts, sentence structure, question words, auditory skills, you name it!
Students who are minimally verbal can respond using the pet symbols you made by taking photos of the puzzle pieces, or the puzzle pieces themselves.
Worksheets with pictures are great to turn into hands-on activities.
In the photo, you can see examples of:
- Sticker activities that are laminated and turned into a pet shop game. One set is an enlarged version so that the students had to specify the big/little pet.
- Shape matching pages turned into a game.
- Hidden picture pages put into a page protector to make a matching activity using pet symbols. The pictures of the hidden animal were colored in this set for a student who was just beginning to visually discriminate.
- A trading card plastic page that was adapted with symbols for students to match the associated pet and say the sentence.
Tip 9: USE SUPPLIES YOUR SCHOOL OFFERS!
My school had Ellison cutters and construction paper available. Adding pet photos on the back before laminating made a simple game. Students requested the color cat or dog and then turned it over.
The visual support helped the minimally verbal students form a sentence while the more verbal students used correct grammar in their productions.
Check out my Adapted Books: PETS Themed Activities and add your own toys for some interactive fun!