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Engaging Young & Active Learners

As a therapist, do you ever find yourself struggling with maintaining motivation and engagement in your sessions? Engaging young and active clients in therapy sessions can be both challenging and rewarding. Having some effective tools and strategies at your fingertips can go a long way to ensure success! Here are some strategies that you can use to help maintain engagement:


Incorporate Play-Based Activities:

  • Integrate play into your sessions to make them more enjoyable. Use toys, games, and activities that the child finds interesting.

  • Select activities that align with the child's age and interests. For example, if a child enjoys building, use blocks, Legos, or magnetic tiles as part of your session.

Use Visual Aids:

  • Incorporate visual aids, such as colorful cue cards, pictures, first/then boards, visual schedules, and charts to make the sessions more visually stimulating. The use of visuals can also help to build understanding so that you client understands the tasks and expectations of the session.

  • Visuals can help to reinforce concepts and keep the child's attention focused.

  • Visual supports can also provide a means end, so that children understand when the activity will be complete.

Interactive Technology:

  • Leverage technology by incorporating interactive apps or games that are both educational and entertaining.

  • Use tablets, computers, or interactive whiteboards to make the sessions more dynamic and appealing.

  • Resources such as Everyday Speech, YouTube, Ultimate SLP, Boom Learning, Teachers Pay Teachers, PPT, GIFs, Google Images, etc. are great tools to help you create engaging activities and lessons!

Movement & Physical Activities:

  • Allow for movement breaks during sessions to accommodate the energy levels of active children or include movement as part of your target activity.

  • Integrate physical activities that involve gross or fine motor skills to keep them engaged. For example, make a hopscotch grid using painters’ tape on the floor and hop to your targets or build something together as you take turns.

  • Allow your students to stand versus sit. If they need to sit, consider sitting on a therapy ball (Yoga ball), active motion stool, wiggle seat, etc.

  • When working on story re-tell consider acting out stories/books, not only is this fun but it can help with comprehension.

  • Using trampolines, scooter boards, tunnels, a parachute, Yoga ball, or basketball, during your sessions can go a long way in keeping your students engaged and motivated for learning.

Incorporate Their Interests:

  • Tailor your activities to the child's interests. Whether it's a favorite character, hobby, or topic, incorporating their preferences can boost motivation.

  • Create therapy materials and activities related to their interests to make sessions more personalized.


Use Varied and Short Activities:

  • Keep activities varied to prevent boredom. Switch between different types of tasks and use a mix of structured and unstructured activities.

  • Break down tasks into shorter, more manageable segments to maintain attention and prevent frustration.

  • Use a timer for children that struggle with motivation so that they know how much time is left in the current activity.

Use Music and Songs:

  • Consider integrating music and songs into your sessions. Singing can be a fun and effective way to work on speech-language skills, imitation, motor planning and engagement.

  • Choose songs with repetitive lyrics or incorporate movement to enhance engagement.

  • Use videos that have music and language concepts.

  • Consider cultural music, or music that the specific child is exposed to as the familiarity will boost engagement.

Use a Multi-Sensory Approach:

  • Engage multiple senses by incorporating touch (squeezes, tickles), smell, or taste into activities when appropriate.

  • Use sensory-friendly materials to create a comfortable and inviting environment.

  • Observe what the child does on their own to gain insight into their sensory preferences and try to meet them where they are.

  • Consider beans, shaving cream, water, z-vibe, massager, etc. for tactile input.

Consider a Reward System:

  • Implementing a reward system to reinforce participation and keep things fun!

  • Offer small incentives or praise for completing tasks or reaching speech goals.

  • Make the rewards immediate and meaningful to the child based on their interests.

Incorporate Parent Involvement:

  • Encourage parents to participate in sessions or provide them with activities to reinforce at home.

  • Share progress and involve parents in goal setting to create a collaborative approach.

  • Some kids are more motivated to try things with caregivers then with the clinician.


Remember, flexibility and creativity are key when working with young and active clients. By tailoring your approach to each child's unique preferences and needs, you can create a more engaging and effective therapy experience to achieve the outcome that you desire.


Which strategies have you used that have been most effective? Share your ideas by commenting below:


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