Hoop it Up! Using Hula Hoops in Speech-Language Therapy

September 18, 2023
Sandra Lucas, CCC-SLP
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Ah, hula hoops - the mainstay of gym classes, summer afternoons, and college festivals. Whether you were a hooping machine or it was impossible to keep those hoops on your hips, they still conjure up a ton of great memories for most of us. So why not re-create some of that fun for your speech-language clients? We certainly are!

Engaging in sensory and motor activities aids in enhancing the brain's concentration, self-regulation, diminishing distractions, and establishing neural connections crucial for acquiring and retaining knowledge. Incorporating movement into therapy fosters a sense of full engagement with the child and promotes a joyful learning experience! Read on for some creative ways we use hula hoops within your speech and language therapy sessions.

Targeting multi-syllable words, final consonant deletion, or multi-word utterances

Layout 2-4 hula hoops in a row, depending on the syllable/sound number or utterance length you are targeting. Place picture cards to represent the target word (e.g. cat; elephant) or a visual representation of a carrier phrase + an object (e.g. I see + horses) at the end of the row so the child can see it. Have the child jump/stomp/hop into the individual hoops for each syllable/sound or for each word in the utterance.

Venn diagram

Venn diagrams on paper aren’t so exciting, but with hula hoops they become infinitely more engaging. Overlap two hula hoops in the middle. Using picture cards or actual objects, you can sort, compare, and categorize to your hearts content. For older kids, place two objects above the hoops, and then use index cards with describing words on them to complete the Venn diagram.

Articulation practice

We all know the drill - the articulation drill, that is. It can be a little...boring sometimes. Hula hoops definitely add that little bit of flair to amp up the motivation.  While there are many ways to use hoops in artic drills, we like:

Spiderweb: Put tape across in the inside of the hoop in all directions, creating a web. Have a toy spider on hand. From here you can place “flies” (any small black object) on the web. For each one the spider eats, your client says their target word. Alternatively, you can use a bunch of small objects that fit the child’s target sound(s) and have them say the word and then throw the object in the web. For each one that sticks, they get a point (great for groups!).
Frog hop/car chase: A great way to use those artic cards that we all love so much! Place hoops around the room and put cards with the child’s target sound(s) inside. Have a toy frog hop to each card or drive a toy car to each, and upon arrival have the child say their target word/sentence.

Personal space (group activity)

Perfect for those kiddos who don’t quite understand when they are standing slightly too close for comfort. Using smaller sized hoops, have each child place one around their waist and hold it in place. Have the kids then participate in routines such as circle time or lining up so they begin to understand how far apart to space themselves for these (and other) activities to maintain personal space.

Staying on topic (group activity)

You know those clients who can’t stop talking and hop from topic to topic? This activity is tailor-made for them! Lay a few hoops around the room, and have each represent a different topic (you can hand tags on them if needed).  Have all of the kids hold onto one of the hoops and participate in a conversation about that topic. They can transition to another topic/hoop anytime by grabbing hold of another hoop BUT they must transition by holding on to both hoops at one time and making a connection statement like, "that reminds me of..." or "speaking of fun summer things to do…” Prepare for a lot of laughter with this activity :)

Regardless of how you use them, kids’ faces will light up when you bring hoops into your sessions.  What are some of your favorite ways to use hula hoops in therapy?

For more OT and SLP collabs, check out the resource tab of our website including this funtivity!

This post was originally published 9/19/2017 and most recently updated 9/18/2023.