July 20, 2012

Toys to Talk About--The "Hoberman Expanding Sphere" Toy

Hello all! I'm still here! (And, quite frankly, my brain has REALLY been enjoying summer vacation!) I don't know about all of you, but when I shut down my computer after the last day of school, I think I literally switched "work mode" to "sleep mode". I have really been enjoying my time off from school, and my six year old son recently declared, "it's unfair for summer vacation to be shorter than the school year." (I didn't really have a good argument for that one.) So, aside from perusing Pinterest for new and fresh ideas to incorporate into speech therapy, I have made time for another favorite hobby. . . . .THRIFT SHOPPING!

I have always found that shopping "on a dime" has helped me find some great deals on "Toys to Talk About". Now, this has become an interesting topic at home with my kids (who happen to also serve as my own personal guinea pigs). I have lots of fun engaging with them to see just how many words and phrases ONE toy can elicit, it's like a game to them and me!

The first toy I found this summer was on my "wish list" and was inspired by one of the SLPs that I supervised this year during her Clinical Fellowship Year, Katie Ruffin. I observed Katie as she provided therapy to students in middle school and high school. We spent a lot of time brainstorming and developing ideas for many students who had minimal verbal skills and we spent a lot of time focusing on developing "Core Vocabulary" (future post on this important topic is yet to come). It was during an observation of her working with a student that I came across her using the Hoberman Expanding Sphere Toy and I knew that I immediately needed to get my hands on one myself! (I have to admit, I didn't know the exact name of this toy until I researched it for this post, but now I can give credit where it is due!) Here are a few pictures of the toy that I am talking about:

Retracted Sphere

Expanded sphere and Retracted Sphere

Now, I knew where I could go and buy one of these toys online or in stores, but I got lucky when I found mine for only 25 CENTS at a Yard Sale! So, not only was I excited to get my hands on this new toy, but the price made it SUPER EXCITING!

So, let's talk about how this toy became a "Toy to Talk About". Some of the words and phrases that I observed it used for in a speech therapy session included:

  • BALL (of course)
  • OPEN
  • IN
  • OUT
  • I WANT
  • MINE
  • ON
In order to facilitate communication with this toy, a communication board was also used with the student. This board could be used with or without voice output depending on the needs of your students. Also, I observed this in an individual therapy session, but it can certainly be just as engaging and useful for language in a small group therapy session! Here is an example of a communication board that might be used in a session with this toy. Go to this link to grab this board from the Boardmaker Share Website: Core Vocabulary--Go-Talk-20. For a younger student, I would likely cover the unnecessary pictures or cut them out and use them as picture exchange versus pointing.

Here are some photographs of how this ball was used in a therapy session that I observed:

"The bird is IN" the ball."
"Put the bird IN."

"The bird is OUT of the ball."
"Take the bird OUT."
In addition to playing with the ball in the ways pictured here, the SLP and the student also played a game of "catch" and also incorporated other objects to throw the ball into and to take in/out of the ball. While I was researching this toy online, I also came across an image of a much larger version that looked like this:

Boy, wouldn't this be fun!?! The language opportunities would be endless! I envision using it to teach and learn positional words and many other vocabulary words, and this would be great fun for turn taking and building social communication skills too! Guess I'll have to add the "kid size" version to my wish list now!

I hope you find this toy will create "something to talk about" in your classroom! I'd love to hear how you might use this toy with your students! How many more words and phrases can you think of to teach to your students using this toy?

Looking forward to Saturday morning Yard Sales!


  1. What a great idea and blog! I love how so many topics are covered! I am just north of you along I-35. Looking forward to more!

    Oh, How Pintearesting!

  2. AnonymousJuly 22, 2012

    The social worker has this sphere at my school. She has kids open and close it slowly while taking breaths to help with relaxation. I love your ideas too! 25 cents what a deal!

    1. What a great idea! I think that would be useful in fluency therapy and in therapy for students with social communication needs! Thanks for sharing because that just prompted new ideas for how to use this tool in more therapy groups!


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