Using Calico Critters & Li’l Woodzeez in Speech & Language Treatment

My patients love using Calico Critters and Li’l Woodzeez during treatment! And I love that the kids are motivated to do their work while we play with them.

There are so many less expensive dollhouse sets! Yet, these are the most motivating that I’ve found. My patients have always tired of the other dollhouse sets I’ve used, but they rarely tire of these. I think it’s because the dolls are animals, they’re actually fuzzy, and the accessories are all so cute!

I originally bought the Li’l Woodzeez camper set (for $34.99) and the Li’l Woodzeez chipmunk family, which is apparently no longer available, (for $9.99) because I thought they were adorable, but I’ve since added pieces and sets to target various grammatical features. 

Here are all my sets put away on the shelves (where they can be easily hidden by a curtain).

Right now the biggest challenge is having the right toys disinfected and dry for the kids who need to work on specific targets.  When I’m not able to keep it all straight and have it ready I’ll either ask the kids if they remember about the toys we’ve played with before or hold them up (although, children usually want to play with a toy if they see it and it feels cruel to then tell them they can’t. It’s like literally “dangling it in front of them”). 

This is how I keep my critters organized – each family and room set has it’s own Tupperware container and I have a container with a contrasting lid for the items I use to target irregular past-tense verbs, irregular plurals, and target words that children are working to pronounce. I put all the Tupperware in one of these big cloth bins.

Irregular Past-Tense Verbs

I use the I use the Li’l Woodzeez camper set (cost: $34.99) for “drove,” the Li’l Woodzeez airplane (cost: $32.99) to target “sat,” “read,” “ate,” “fell (asleep),” “slept,” “woke,” “stood,” “flew,” and “went,” and the Calico Critters treehouse (cost: $13.39) for “slid,” “hid,” and “swung.”  Any of the family sets can be used to target “ran.”  The camper and Li’l Woodzeez Health Clinic (cost: $19.99) can also be used for “slept.” The off-brand Best Choice Deluxe Cottage Dollhouse (cost: $49.99) can be used for almost all these targets.

I’ll let the patient play with the set for a while and keep an ear open for targets. Then I’ll interrupt their play and ask, “What did they do?” or, to be more specific, “What did they do with the car?” If they have trouble with that I’ll tell them, “They were driving and driving and now they’re done. What did they do?” If that isn’t enough I’ll ask, “Did they ‘drived’?” and if they still need more help I’ll ask, “Is it ‘they drove’ or ‘drived’?”

Here are some more ideas for targeting irregular past-tense verbs during play-based activities.

Irregular Plurals

For irregular plurals I added the Li’l Woodzeez family of “sheep” (for $9.99), the Calico Critters family of “mice” (for $22.95), the Li’l Woodzeez family of “wolves” (for $9.99), the Li’l Woodzeez Health Clinic for “teeth,” “shelves,” and “leaves” (for $19.99), and the Li’l Woodzeez “Boating Set” for “fish” (for $9.99).  The camper I originally bought came with 3 loaves of bread and off-brand Best Choice Deluxe Cottage Dollhouse (cost: $49.99) has lots of loaves, too. Using any a single family set I can target “children” and “feet” and with any 2 sets I can target “men” and “women.” 

In an appointment I usually start by asking kids what family they want to play with. I’ll say things like, “This family has one wolf, and another wolf, and another wolf – so what are they?”  If the need more help I’ll ask, “Are they a family of wolfs?” with emphasis on the “f.”  I’ll do the same thing for the “teeth,” “shelves,” “loaves,” and “fish” before I give the patient the toys.  I’ll then let the kids play and listen in for any errors and ask them to fix them as we go.  If they’ve been playing for a while and they haven’t used more targets I’ll use the same kind of prompts as before to target “leaves” (outside the clinic), “feet,” “men” (using a second set for the second man), “women” (again using a second set), and “children.”  I always try to give them the singular version so they know what I’m looking for.  For example, I’ll say, “They don’t have one child, do they?” because if I ask, “What do they have?” I’ll get answers like, “2 kids” since many of my patients are smart enough to avoid the targets they struggle with.

Here are some more ideas for targeting irregular plurals during play-based activities.

Articulation/Phonology

For patients who are working on articulation/phonology I use mini objects from Speech Tree Company (you have to get on the waiting list to be able to order them). For word-level I’ll tell the child the critters are going to a store and then pretend to be a baby critter and ask about each item (“What’s this?”). For sentence level I’ll ask the child what happened after they get out of the store then ask things like, “Can you believe all the things that baby didn’t know?” or even “She didn’t know what a thermometer was!” to elicit more.

Here are the containers Speech Tree Co. sent with the mini objects. This organization makes the treatment so much easier!

Here are some more ideas for addressing articulation in play-based activities.

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