Preschool Therapy: Melissa & Doug Magnetic Matching Picture Game

Welcome to 2020, fellow SLPs! It’s crazy to think that it’s now been a decade since I began taking Speech-Language Pathology classes in earnest and began preparing for graduate school. In some ways, it seems like just yesterday; in others, it seems like I’ve been doing this forever!

Today I wanted to share with you one of my favorite buys for working with preschoolers: the Melissa and Doug Magnetic Matching Picture Game. I picked mine up from Target and have been using it all year long for my littlest friends.

This activity set comes with 119 magnetic pieces plus 12 familiar scenes (6 pages total, double sided). Scenes include a school bus, neighborhoods, playgrounds, and farms and the magnetic pieces coordinate to the scenes. The entire set comes in a wooden case. The top of the case lifts off and fits into the bottom, providing a upright magnetic board while the bottom functions as storage for both the scenes and the magnetic pieces. The box is secured with rubber bands at the corners and has a handle for carrying.

So, how do I use it? I’m glad you asked!

1 | Matching and Establishing Connections

The intended use for this set is matching the magnetic pieces to the accompanying scenes. For example, students can find which pieces are appropriate for a farm scene and discuss vocabulary related to farming (various animals, tractor, farmer, etc…) This helps students build connections between words, as well as develop vocabulary around a common theme.

2 | Categorizing

The magnetic pieces can be divided into roughly 6 categories: buildings, outdoors, signs, vehicles, people, and animals. You could also add broader categories for parts (parts of a building, parts of a car, parts the body, parts of an animal).

3 | Spatial Awareness/Prepositions

Because the pieces are highly movable and the scenes are varied, it is easy to target both receptive and expressive knowledge of spatial/positional vocabulary. Asking students where certain items are or can be placed targets receptive knowledge, while giving the student directions to follow when placing magnets on a scene targets expressive knowledge.

4 | Pronouns and Verbs

Multiple people are provided and because they are movable, the “characters” can be made to participate in a variety of activities (for example driving a car or swinging). Again, receptive and expressive knowledge can be targeted.

5 | Community Vocabulary

Because of the scenes provided, it is easy to teach community and safety vocabulary within this set. Students have learned the concepts of “stop” and “go” related to stop signs and traffic lights, as well as names of buildings (house versus school versus farm).

6 | MLU Expansion

I’ve watched one of my little friend’s MLU blossom over weeks of playing with this set. What began as receptive vocabulary (“Let’s find the car!”) made its way to one word expression (“Car”) and then to full sentences (“He’s driving the car!”).

7 | Answering Questions

I’ve been able to target both simple “yes” and “no” questions (“Is this the cat’s tail?” “Is this the red car?”) and WH questions (“Where is the cat’s tail? “Who is driving the red car?”) with this set, easily progressing forward as vocabulary increases.

8 | Requesting

Students tend to have an idea of what they want their scene to look like! Once they become familiar with the pieces, holding some of them back becomes an effective way to target making requests of increasing complexity. Again, one of my students has moved from making simple, one word requests (“that” + pointing) to complete statements and questions (“I want the red car.”)

9 | Recognizing Absurdities

The intended purpose of this set is to build appropriate connections, which means the reverse can also be done! Today, I made a scene of a cat and a dog driving one of the cars. My student looked at me with exasperation, begin moving the pieces around, and stated with confidence “He drives the car!” while putting one of the characters into the car instead.

10 | Social Engagement

Some of my little ones start off in therapy reserved and hesitant to join in. I’ve found that this set offers us an easy, no pressure way to grow comfortable with one another. I’ve often began therapy by choosing a scene and building onto it on my own, modeling language as I go. Eventually, the guard will begin to drop, and the student will begin to build alongside me. From there, we can begin working on taking turns, making eye contact, joint attention, and more.

This activity set has been a great help to me this year with my preschool students! The 10 ways I’ve listed above are certainly not the only ways that it can be used – what other goals could you see yourself using this set for?

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