Bubbles to improve language development?

Bubbles to improve language development?

My sister was visiting the other day and asked me for some suggestions on how to encourage her son to speak more. I suggested trying bubbles. Bubbles are one of my favorite therapy tools because they can be used in so many different ways to both assess language skills and promote language development. In a study done by Lancaster University, they found that, Youngsters who can lick their lips, blow bubbles and pretend that a building block is a car are most likely to find learning language easy. So here are my top ten ways to use bubbles to promote language development.

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Top 10 ways to use bubbles for language development:

1. Use bubbles to promote eye contact.
Engage your child in a fun bubble blowing activity. Watch for the anticipation of more bubbles. Wait for eye contact before you blow more bubbles.

2. Use bubbles to stimulate your child to make a request.
This may be as simple as blowing the bubbles, screwing the lid on tight, and giving them back to your child. Wait to see what they do. If after trying to open the bubbles themselves unsuccessfully, they hand them back to you for help, they have just made a request.

3. Use bubbles to teach a sign.
When your child hands the bubbles back to you to open you can use this opportunity to teach the sign for open. Or while blowing bubbles for your child you might pause to see if he asks for more. If not, teach the sign for more. You may also teach the signs for again, want, please, and all done.

4. Use bubbles to teach a sound.
When your child requests for more bubbles with a sign or gesture try modeling the sound /m/ for more, /b/ for bubbles, or /p/ for pop (pop bubbles).

5. Use bubbles to teach a word.
Use bubble blowing to teach the words, bubbles, more, again, want, pop, all done, fun, please, and whatever else you can work into the activity.

6. Use bubbles to teach turn taking.
Bubbles are a fun way to teach my turn, your turn. Basic turn taking routines teach kids the skills for conversational turn taking. You may also teach the signs for my turn, your turn during this activity.

7. Use bubbles to teach lip rounding for the sounds /w/, oo, and /o/.
When your child blows bubbles through a wand watch the shape of their lips. If they are round, great! If they are more on the flat side try squeezing their cheeks forward to get their lips in the right position. If this doesn’t work try having them wrap their lips around a wide straw (McDonald’s straws work great) that has been cut to about 2″ in length, then with their lips around the straw have them blow the bubbles through the wand. The straw positions their lips into the correct posture for blowing.

8. Use bubbles to position and strengthen the tongue correctly for the /k/, /g/, and ng sounds.
Blowing exercises such as blowing bubbles position and strengthen the tongue for sounds produced in the back of the mouth.

9. Use bubbles to strengthen abdominal muscles for sustained speech.
Strong abdominal muscles can help increase sentence length. Work with your child to blow consistently longer streams of bubbles each time you practice.

10. Use bubbles because they are fun and kids love them!!!

I read some reviews for the “Bubble Tumbler” (spill-proof bubbles!) and parents seem to love them. If your into less of a sticky mess, and I think most of us are, try them out. I’m going to! 

Articles that cite the Lancaster University’s Study:

“Kids Who Blow Bubbles Find Language is Child’s Play” (sciencedaily.com)
“Toddlers Who Blow Bubbles Learn To Speak Earlier”
(medicalnewstoday.com)


Heidi - Mommy Speech Therapy Heidi Hanks, M.S.CCC-SLP has been a practicing Speech-Language Pathologist since 2000. She graduated from Utah State University where she completed both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. She began her career in early intervention and eventually started her own private practice where she has worked primarily with pre-K through school age kids. She is the founder of Little Bee Speech, and is currently developing apps for speech and language. Heidi lives in Utah with her husband and 4 children.


8 Responses to “Bubbles to improve language development?”

  1. Emily says:

    Reading this article made me very excited about blowing bubbles with my child. When I was done reading we went and blew some bubbles. When it was his turn I kept saying “blow, blow,” and now he has a new word, “bow.” I am excited!

  2. Sheri says:

    Hi there,

    Ran across this blog and I think I am going to book mark it…..my son is almost 19 months and we are currently in speech through EI for feeding and speech….I am becoming increasingly concerned over his speech….I know we are doing the right things, but the fact remains that he has no words ( none- not even mama….) and babbles only a few consonants….he doesn’t point, and sometimes its hard to know what he really knows, he does maintain eye contact and is sweet as can be….anyways, I am beginning to wonder if he has more than just a speech delay- it may be too early to tell, but still….at what age do you think toddlers should be able to blow bubbles and lick things off their lips….I tried putting chocolate on his lips and he just rubbed it with his hand……and bubbles, well we do them, but he just tries to pop them doesn’t really try and blow…..anyways this is getting long…..I’ll be reading up on your blog- thanks:)

  3. Heidi says:

    Sherri,

    By the age of 21 months children should be able to blow bubbles and lick their lips. You mentioned your son isn’t doing these things yet. Next time you try putting chocolate on his lips, hold his hands down from his face and see if he makes an effort to lick his lips. If he doesn’t, put some chocolate on your lips and model licking them, then while holding his hands down indicate to your son that it is his turn to lick his lips. These are just a few thoughts I had when I read your comment, let me know if they help.

    As for the bubble blowing… blowing bubbles through the wand can be difficult for some children. Instead you might try blowing a bubble and catching it on the wand, then model blowing the bubble off the wand. If your son still has difficulty show him that when you simply breathe on the bubble it wiggles. If you still have no reaction try catching the bubble on the wand then popping it on his lips. He will have fun with this. Then work in reverse order, breathing on the bubble, then blowing off the wand, and very last through the wand.

    One more thought Sherri… Is your therapist working with you to teach your son how to point? Has she suggested anything about introducing a picture exchange communication system to get him jump started into language? Those are a couple of things I might try.

    Hope all goes well,
    Heidi

  4. Sheri says:

    Heidi-

    Thanks so much- our old SLp’s name was Heidi too:) We have recently moved and have just started with EI here in WI…..It took a little time to get started, but actually not that bad.

    Well, the chocolate didn’t work out so well, but we’ll try it every once in a while. Sammy has a complicated past and foods aren’t that easy with him…. Great ideas with the bubbles….we currently work with bubbles, but those are helpful ideas…..no blowing yet- although I think he tried to eat them:) Irronic since he doesn’t seem to like food- AHHHHHHH! but they are a fun thing to do, so we’ll keep at it…..

    We haven’t done too much with pointing in speech yet… we are pretty new here, and she is still trying to fit in an extra time for us….hopefully soon, as I think we need it….I might mention the pointing again and see what she says…..

    I guess I worry mostly because I don’t think he is doing some of those pre- language skills and because of his past medical stuff( multiple birth defects including laryngeo/tracheo/bronchomalacia that led to feeding difficulties and severe OSA, tethered spinal cord, underdeveloped R cerebellum and others- see our blog)I worry that there might be more than just a speech delay….He seems smart, just not verbal….I guess though it wouldn’t really change what we are doing….We see a neurologist again in december so speech will be something we talk about…..

    Anyways, thanks for your sight- I may reference it……:)

  5. I found your site through another moms blog..I am currently going through the worry phase about Kellars speech..He was born 14 wks early at 1 lb 12 oz..Has bilateral grade 3 IVH and a cerebellum bleed..He is doing well despite his rough start..He does babble, says dada but I am not sure he realizes it’s a word, he doesn’t say dada when his dad walks in/out of the room..He rarely waves bye-bye, and like another moms worry, he doesn’t point at things..I am going to try the bubbles..We are scheduled for a speech eval in the next few weeks…

  6. Travis says:

    Really a cool idea, and it has some data to back it up. Very interesting. My son was born with Esophageal Atresia, Tracheomalacia, & Bronchomalacia, but he’s a talker. I still going to give some of these tips a whirl. Thanks!

  7. This is a good posting, I was wondering if I could use this write-up on my website, I will link it back to your website though. If this is a problem please let me know and I will take it down right away

  8. Heidi says:

    That’s great Karey, Thank you for linking the article to Mommy Speech Therapy. Do you have a link to your website, I’d love to see it!