Tips & Tricks: Teaching Body Parts

Why Teach Body Parts?

Teaching body parts is one of the most important foundational skills for little ones.  It helps us to communicate when something is bothering us, which is so important! 


Where do we get started?

From birth, parents can work on body parts all day long!   Examples: while getting dressed, during bath time, during song time, during reading, and during play.  You can do this when your child is an infant.  There is no prerequisite for modeling language (see research below).

 

Examples: 

  • While Getting Dressed: 
    •  "Let's put your sock on your foot.  Ooh...I see 10 toes!  One...two..."
  •  While Playing:
    • (Put a toy on your head) "Where'd the bear go?  Oh!  It's on my Head!  Now it's on my belly....silly bear!"
    • Using stickers: have the child put stickers on you, himself, or a doll"Sticker on my nose....sticker on my toes!"
  • Meal Time:
    • "I'm putting my bagel in my mouth.  My teeth chew it up.  Chomp chomp! Now it's heading to my belly.  My belly is getting full." 
  • Singing: 
    • I'll list favorite songs below. Interactive songs with fingerplay or motions are often engaging.  Repetition is also helpful (see research below). 
  • Getting Ready:
    • "I'm brushing my hair.  My hair is yellow!  Next, I'll brush my big, white teeth! Can you find your teeth too?"
  • Waiting:
    • "We're waiting for the bus.  I'm standing on my feet.  Now I'm sitting on my bottom!"
  • Reading:
    • I'll list some of my favorite books below.  Interactive pieces and repetition often increase attention and memory (see research below).  
  • Bed Time: 
    • This can be a great time to incorporate all of the above.  You can sing a bedtime song, talk about parts you wash during a bath time routine, read a book, and more! You can even talk about the body parts of a favorite stuffed animal getting tucked into bed with your little one.  

 Favorite Books for Teaching Body Parts:

Hello World!  My Body by Jill McDonald

All About My Body Interactive Book by Elizabeth Hepler 

Counting Kisses by Karen Katz 

Belly Button Book by Sandra Boynton

Parts by Tedd Arnold

Hear Your Heart by Paul Showers

 

Favorite Songs for Teaching Body Parts:

Head, Shoulders Knees and Toes by Super Simple Songs

Body Parts Song by Have Fun Teaching

Tooty Ta by Jack Hartman


Favorite Toys and Visuals for Teaching Body Parts:




Therapy Ideas:

  • Anecdotally, I have found that natural, in-the-moment teaching works great and comes during play-based intervention.  You can use anything for this...even in teletherapy.  Put stickers on your nose.  Hide a stuffed animal on your shoulder and act like you can't find it. 
  • When using books, I find that putting something in the child's hand increases engagement (this is supported in the research below).  I prefer books with interactive pieces.  There is a need for more research to determine the overall effects of this type of book for language development, but parent and clinical experience are also valid in highlighting what has been successful in language gains for their students and children.
  • For movement breaks, I like to use the song videos above.  Those listed have been engaging for my younger students (2-5 years) both in teletherapy and face to face.  I'm always up moving with my students.  
  • For visuals, I love to laminate and use visuals like the one above during songs.  I like to use the black and white copy for an art activity and to send home for carryover.
  • For picture cards, I don't typically sit and drill kids with these.  We play with them!  We "stand on the nose!"  We tape them to the wall and shoot ball poppers at them.  I model the language.  As kids get the hang of the terms, they become the "teacher" and tell me where to stand.  
  • Electronic Resources: these can be helpful for hands-on practice both face to face and in teletherapy.   You can use no fail teaching or Errorless learning to introduce new vocabulary (this means there isn't a right or wrong answer.  Once that's mastered, you can move on to tasks with two picture choices to see if there is true understanding. The set below contains both of these types of activities. 


Research & Evidence Based Practice:

Betty Hart, PhD and Todd Risely, PhD with the University of Kansas found in their research that the more words a child was exposed to, the better their academic performance was in school (regardless of socioeconomic status).  They described 30,000 words a day as their "magic number" for meaningful growth and success.  On paper, this looks like a LOT of words...but we can do this, as parents.  We can talk to our children throughout the day....even when they cannot talk themselves.  You can read more about this study and research here.

The bottom line is that even if it feels silly or tiring by the end of the day, talking to your child can make a tremendous difference in their language development and future success in school. It's a tool that doesn't require any money, just a caregiver talking to the child.
 
While 30,000 words sounds like a daunting task, many of us already do this and don't even realize it.  You can do it! 
 
This article from ASHA (2020) highlights the need for further research on interactive reading:
   
"this study evaluated only two types of interactive shared reading programs, over a limited duration (6 weeks). Thus, we caution against coming to a more general conclusion that interactive shared book reading itself does not support language development. Instead, we make a series of recommendations for researchers and clinical professionals who are involved in designing and implementing such interventions for caregivers."

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