If I were to choose the game every speech-language pathologist loves, I would go with “Cariboo”. It is a treasure hunt game in which finding all balls is awarded with seeing a treasure chest opens. Unfortunately, this game is no longer manufactured, but it can be purchased on sites like eBay and Amazon. I did my happy dance (twice!) after finding mine in a neighbourhood second store toy store. There is a newer version of this game - "Cranium Cariboo Island"- which is almost as fun as the original one.
Who is it for: Preschool-aged children (ages 3-6), but I have to admit I have used it with some older kids, too.
Aim of the game: The goal is to find all the balls hidden under each door. Once this task is accomplished, the balls are rolled down a small tunnel. And as soon as the sixth balls goes down the slot, the treasure chest opens. Ta da! What's inside?
What makes "Cariboo" so amazing? This is a game I can use in speech therapy sessions to work on so many different speech, language, and social interaction goals. And all kids love it! It's a total SLP bliss!
How to use "Cariboo" to work on requesting
Working on requesting? “Cariboo" is great choice to support this goal.
First, we have to choose the words we are going to use to request. The word “key” works well as a target word since the child needs the key to open each door. There are lots of doors that we need to unlock, so the child will have many opportunities to practice requesting using this target word.
Another word to use to work on requesting is “ball”. Note: The adult has to hold the balls, or there is no need to request anything!
Once the child starts to independently use single words to request, you can start expanding his/ her utterances to short phrases (e.g., “I want the ball” or “I need the key”).
How to use "Cariboo" to work on taking turns
You can also use “Cariboo” to teach your child to wait for his/ her turn and take turns with another person. Not necessarily an easy goal to work on, but well worth the effort. “Waiting” is especially difficult for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and developmental delays; however, it is an important life skill that everyone needs. Learning to wait is also important for the process of the maturation of the frontal lobe. The frontal lobe of the brain is responsible for executive functions (e.g., planning, organizational skills, attention to details, problem solving, etc).
You can make this process less frustrating by :
1. Creating an expectation for waiting within the game. How long do I wait for? Your child will show how long he can wait for or take turns for.
2. Playing on your own with the child to start with. Making your little one wait for each family member to take their turn is not realistic early on, and will not end well.
3. Progressing quickly through the game.
4. Concentrating on taking turns. Forger all other language goals for now!
5. Following through, and finishing the game, even if the child is seemingly upset (of course, I don’t mean a full-blown tantrum).
Remember: you control the pace of the game. Try to keep the pace consistent even though it might seem like the child is hardly sitting still.
6. Playing the game again and again while increasing the amount of time in between each turn.
Everything going smoothly? Then it’s time to make tasks more challenging. There are couple of ways to do that: by introducing another family member or friend or having your child wait a little longer before taking her/ his turn.
How to use "Cariboo" to work on grammar
Another use of this game could be to help your child learn adding an /S/ for regular plural nouns (e.g., “cats”, “dogs”, “buses”). Regular plurals are among the first grammatical markers (or grammar words ) children acquire and are important as they carry important information.
Typically developing children start using plural “s” sometime between their second and third birthday (27-33 months). Children with language delay and disorders often have trouble using plural /S/.
Here is a simple way to teach this concept using “Cariboo”:
1. In the early stage, focus on teaching the contrast between a singular and plural noun. Say each word and exaggerate its ending as you play together (e.g., “Oh, look, it’s a cameL”, “Let’s open the busES. I see three busES). Sometimes all it takes is to “hear” the difference! Make sure the child understand the difference between a “book” and “books” before moving to the next phase.
2. In the next phase, the child is going to be expected to use plural /S/ in her/ his sentences while playing the games (and in no other situations). I try to be as gentle as possible when correcting children’s production. Simple modelling correct production or using statements such as “Oh, I think you meant ”applES”. I see two applES.” works better than telling them they were wrong or asking them to repeat.
3. Once this phase is mastered, you will have to monitor the ability of the child to use plural /S/ in natural speech. It usually takes a few months before the child start using this grammar concept spontaneously in natural speech.