We love being silly and I sneak in oral motor activities any way that I can. I typically tell the kids that I want them to do something that mom usually tells them is "naughty!" STICK YOUR TONGUE STRAIGHT OUT AT ME!!! I also ask the kids to make the funniest face they can think of and it usually turns into a laugh fest! There is huge debate as to whether or not oral motor exercises have any place in speech therapy or if they are even effective for helping improve a child's speech. My honest answer is "I don't know!" I do oral motor activities with a lot of my kids. Not so much with the intention of improving their speech sounds, but by improving their direction following ability, breath support and increasing their ability to manage their own saliva or to have them be aware of what they are doing with their own "parts!" I also use it to make kids comfortable with their articulators (tongue, lips, cheeks, etc.) If they can make silly faces or do these types of activities in a small group, I have found that they are less inhibited when it comes to trying tongue placement techniques for speech sounds. Even if science says, "Oral motor exercises do not work for improving speech sounds," it does help in these other areas. Here are some ideas for home:
Blowing BubblesThis is a great exercise for breath control as well as pursing the lips. Who doesn't like blowing bubbles and practicing their bilabial sounds (p, b, m) at the same time. "More bubbles, please!" "Pop!", "Big bubbles!"
Blow a HarmonicaHere is another great oral motor exercise for breath control and lip movement and what kid doesn't like to make NOISE? Work on softer vs. louder when working on breath support. Work on pursing lips tighter to get just 1 tone (by blowing in just 1 hole) rather than 2 or 3 at once to work on lip strength.
Blow a Kazoo
Kazoos not only help your breath support/control, but it also helps with vocal control as well.You have to blow and hum at the same time to get any noise. Once you get the hang of the kazoo, try varying your pitch and actually getting a song out of it.
Using a StrawQuite often in preschool, we will try our foods/snacks through straws of different lengths. The shorter the straw, the easier the task. The thicker the liquid, the more suction it takes. We often have yogurt or applesauce through a straw rather than with a spoon. Try races to see who can get it up the longest straw the quickest (without having anyone choke!!!!) In the pictures above, Miss Ashley had a birthday and she brought in her snow cone maker with a ton of flavored syrups to pick from. Not only did we make funny faces, but we got choose which color to make our tongues and teeth. As you can see, blue was by far the most popular!
Mimic each other
See if you can copy each other's silly faces. You would be surprised at how difficult that is for some kids without a mirror. I keep little mirrors handy so they can see themselves and what they are doing. Just increasing the awareness of what they are doing with their own bodies and following verbal directions of "bite your lip" or "put your tongue up behind your top teeth" can be tricky.
Make it fun, make it silly and make it safe for kids to practice doing different things with their mouths so they aren't embarrassed when you are trying to teach them how to move their tongues for certain speech sounds. In that sense, I think oral motor exercises do have their place in speech therapy.