Sometimes, motivating our clients and children can be a challenge. So I am always looking for new toys and tools to use that will keep kids engaged while we are working toward their speech goals. Through the magic of the internet, I was introduced to the Blast Off Board from Talk It Rock It, LLC. They were founded by fellow speech-language pathologist Rachel Arntson, MS, CCC-SLP. Rachel is best known for her seminars on using music to enhance speech and language skills in children. She created Kids’ Express Train products after realizing her passion for music as therapeutic tools to help kids learn. The Blast Off Board is Rachel’s newest creation. It is a complete sound sequencing program from vowels to multi-syllabic words and phrase and is geared for children with apraxia, articulation delays, or other sound sequencing disorders. The Blast Off Board combines speech and language practice with interaction and fun for an engaging, multi-sensory experience.
The Blast Off Board is a two-sided magnetic-receptive board with ten holes cut into it. Children match magnet pictures over the holes while saying the sounds or words on each picture. After all ten pictures are placed on the tray, children are rewarded by pushing the pictures out from the holes on the other side. Children will have a “blast” while pushing the pictures that are embedded into a scene on the back. The ten pictures in the Starter Set–fish, cow, car, monkey, wheel, house, bike, bunny, dirty, and owl–were chosen for phonetic variety. The Blast Off Board is not only used to target sound sequencing but can be used to target:
- Identifying and naming common objects
- Pointing to pictures upon request
- Following a pointing gesture
- Taking turns
- Answering questions such as “What’s that?, Where is the ___?, and Which one swims in the water?”
- Matching shapes and colors
Each Blast Off Board set comes with a convenient travel case and pouches to store the magnets so they do not get lost. On the Talk It Rock It website you will find digital downloads which include a comprehensive manual and directions, songs and poems for extra learning opportunities, and checklists that pair with each board to help with your documentation.
The Blast Off Board Sets:
- The Blast Off Board Starter Set – This board is sturdy and durable and contains a scene on the back depicting ten common objects which are duplicated in the ten magnets included in this set.
- Level 1 – This is a sound sequencing set that begins with vowels and progresses in the typical sequence for children with speech motor planning issues/apraxia. It has 13 overlays, and magnet sets plus the Starter Board set.
- Level 2 – This is an articulation set comprised of beginning consonant productions. It contains 16 sets of overlays/magnets that cover initial consonants from /p, b, and m/ to /r and l/. (It does not include “th” or /v/.)
- Individual Magnet/Overlay Sets – Each of the overlays and magnet sets from Levels 1 and 2 can be purchased separately. For example, you can purchase only the ‘Two Word Phrase’ overlay/magnet set if that suits your practice or client needs.
As a pediatric speech therapist who travels to see children in their homes, the Blast Off Board is an all-encompassing companion. I love products and toys that I can use with multiple clients, especially on my busy days with back-to-back for appointments. One day last week I saw five different children, all who have different therapy goals, and the only toy I brought along was my Blast Off Board! I targeted speech sound production, coordination and sequencing of syllables, following directions, object identification, color and shape matching, using expanded phrases, and simply used the board for motivation with a kiddo who’s a bit tired of practicing his /k, g/ phonemes.
I think my favorite component of this activity is the number of trials I can achieve while keeping my client engaged and motivated to work. We all know that is not always a simple task. For example, I was able to keep a highly distractible child with low expressive and receptive language skills participating in structured play with the Blast Off Board for more than 10 minutes while we worked on matching and I encouraged him to use a pointing gesture when pushing (i.e. “blasting”) the magnets through the holes. I also enjoy the multi-sensory nature of the Blast Off Board. It allowed the children I was working with to get in on the action and be active participants with their hands while targeting the various skills. In one session, I placed a bunch of the magnets around the room, gave descriptions of the items (i.e., “Go find some we use to open a door.”), and the little boy walked around looking for the piece I described. He then got to match them on his board and gave me an opportunity to elicit some speech sound practice (i.e., “I found the key.”). This activity was a great way to get his body moving and thus maintain his attention. I am pretty convinced he didn’t even realize we were “working”– a bonus!
I found the manual, that is part of the digital downloads, particularly useful. It gave me ideas I would have never thought of for uses of the Blast Off Board. I would even recommend going to download this as you make your decisions to purchase the sets. The manual provides some step-by-step instructions on eliciting productions from your child or client. It also provides a nice overview of the product as well as how it was developed and guided me on choosing where to get started with each client. Rachel’s videos, like the one included above, were very helpful for me as I am a visual learner. There are more to view on her site. They include views of each of the different sets and provide more tips for using the Blast Off Board.
Overall, the Blast Off Board is a high-quality activity that I would recommend. It’s so great that I could not come up with any recommendations for improvements or modifications at this time. But don’t just take it from me as a professional…buy your own and get Playing With Purpose!
Need help supporting your child or client with sound sequencing deficits?
Disclosure: Talk It Rock It granted me full access to their Blast Off Board product at no charge upon my request. They did not solicit this review or my opinions.